About Workplace Politics

Image courtesy of OfficePolitics.com

Image courtesy of OfficePolitics

A few days ago, I was talking about the lack of ethics in organizations and how the senior management believes that internal politics is akin to good competition. Let me do a breakup of the concept and its result with an example.

It all starts with two competitive employees, Alex and Brian. Both are pretty hard workers with Brian being just a tad sneaky. They are working on a project in similar roles with some other people and try to outperform each other regularly.

One day, one of their managers, Cheryl, tells them that she is stepping down from her position after this project and that one of these two would get her position. Seeing a worthwhile career opportunity, both Alex and Brian step things up and start working harder.

Alex tends to make better long-term strategies and plans and is generally better at organization, while Brian is more confident and a better speaker, and is generally sharper than Alex. Alex has Cheryl’s vote, while their other manager, Doris is voting for Brian. Doris sees an opportunity in the making and starts pushing things in Brian’s favor because she feels that he’d be easier to control.

Being more outspoken than Alex, Brian takes over the communications between them and their managers “for the sake of saving Cheryl’s and Doris’ time”. Eventually, the line separating his and Alex’s work starts getting hazy till eventually Brian starts taking credit for most of the work.

Doris knows what’s happening but she encourages Brian’s actions. Alex eventually catches on and leaves his job and walks away, leaving the project unfinished. What happens afterwards is that a few other employees who were working on the same project figure out why Alex left, and decide to leave the company too. As a result, the project grinds to a halt and Cheryl and Doris are stuck in the mud, still believing that they know better.

What about the project? Well, if most of the people working on it leave, then what would happen to it?

The lesson in this short story is that even though you have a decade’s worth of experience in managing people, it doesn’t mean you know everything and are infallible. It doesn’t mean that internal politics would benefit the organization in any way. All that does is that it drives away your trustable, reliable and valuable employees.

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