Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Rant....

power politics, office politics... (yeah, this is a rehash of a post I had written back in '05)

Back in 2005, I was planning out my future career, and was reminded how seldom we get a chance in our lives to actually do that. Usually, people do what they gotta do from day to day, to make other people happy. There is usually a payoff in the long run, same as there is a payoff in taking the wife to the Ice Dance finals. (something which I detest so much that I have been known to pay people to stand in for me....)

Back when I was in the military, we would always be working at cross purposes. They said they wanted one thing, but always rewarded another. For instance, even back in basic training, they "said" they wanted super shiny shoes, super shiny floors and so forth, but they always rewarded conformity. If they really wanted the shiny floors, they would not have objected to the self shining floor waxes, and if they really wanted shiny shoes, they would not have objected to the lacquer. After a while, it became a bit of a game...."sure you SAY you want such and such, but you really want...what?" After I graduated, right on the grade point average....where I expected to be because of course I was too good too flunk out, but too independent to get top career followed much the same path.

I was on Bill's blog, and he posted a thing about office politics...some academic who had a theory that not all politics is excessive amount of verbiage to state the obvious that if it works FOR you, it is good, if it works AGAINST you, it is bad. So you should learn to make it work for you. theory. I would like to meet an organization that didn't know that from the get go!Office politics is okay when it works for you, but not okay when you don't get what you want. It is there regardless, so it pays to learn how to play the game.It helps to write down your goals, put it on a paper under your blotter on your desk. The first question you ask whenever somebody comes up with an idea is "how will this aid the achievement of my goals". Second question..."If I support that fellow on his tangent, will it affect me and my goals in any way?"

Unfortunately, if they are brutally honest, most goals people would write down on that paper they slide under their blotter is "I want to get paid, get promoted, and look good to the boss, my wife, her brother and my employees." Fair enough...of course, nothing other than those goals will be achieved as long as management rewards that goal. As a boss myself, I recognized this phenomon, and roughshod over the office politics, making myself thoroughly unpopular with most people, getting the job done better than anybody had ever done it, but getting no loyalty from the organization when something goes wrong. And it did...eventually something blew up in my face, and I was disiplined not for messing up, but for not picking up a problem my idiot underling did. But a lot of airplanes got fixed right.

When did I become cynical? Well, maybe it was when a person I trained got promoted over me who had never done anything but organize office parties and file log books. He never fixed a problem, just worked in the front office handling the reports from the workers, filing them, collating them, being in front of the bosses all the time. We were aircraft technicians, and this joker got promoted without ever setting foot on an aircraft in his entire career. All cynicism aside, it was very instructive for me and my group to observe this, and re-define our goals based on solid observation....sucking up to the bosses if you want to get promoted, buy the knee pads, and start organizing parties. We did that, the aircrafts languished, eventually being retired because they were "too difficult to keep repaired", and we partied and played office politics because you could get into less trouble by doing nothing than by possibly doing something wrong.

In retrospect, with the loss of the aircraft, we all lost our jobs as well, but hey, ya gotta do what works. At least we didn't end up in jail. This often happened to the last person who fixed the aircraft. I saw how to make the organization work (define your goals), how to make it fail (reward the wrong goals) and how to thrive in either mode. Not bad... Of course, it really doesn't matter now since this knowledge has made me pretty much unemployable!

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