Politics@Workplace:Play The Game

Thirty thousand feet in the air sitting in an airplane, I am thinking of politics and power struggle in workplace. Why? I was talking to a close friend about his situation at work before boarding the flight. He had a call with his CTO and the CEO. He didn’t know the agenda as this was a last minute call but was surprised to hear the CTO complaining about sharing sensitive information with clients in a presentation that morning. My friend was astounded because both of them together created that presentation? He fretted for a while before calling the CTO to ask why he didn’t bring it up while working on the presentation.  The CTO explained that he was covering himself against things going off plan. I understood his CTO’s stance and appreciated his candor to bring it up with the CEO. However, my friend still thinks that CTO should have kept him in the loop. Is it politics?

Yes, it is. I learned in my “Power and Politics” class in MBA that wherever there is more than one person, there is politics. Our distinguished professor also taught us that politics is all about making friends but there are no permanent friends in politics, only permanent interests. Contrary to the common belief, I don’t consider politics as a bad thing. Everyone has an agenda and a right to further that agenda, especially in a work place. Don’t you have an ambition to rise through the corporate hierarchy or build your business against competition? So do others! I am not suggesting to unethically further your interests but to be conscious that there are always conflicting interests and only you are responsible for your own good. One of my “thinking” friends once said –“It doesn’t make sense to play politics once in a while.  If you are in then you are in for good”.  I think it makes lots of sense. Either people know you as a straight shooter or as a politically savvy person. You set the rules of engagement and play by them.

In my friend’s case, I realized that CTO was protecting his interests by not over promising while my friend was working on his interests by sharing more information with clients to satisfy them. The CTO did the right thing to work with my friend on his goals and at the same time raising it to the CEO highlighting that things can go wrong. One cannot rise to the top without mastering the political act because this path is full of conflict of interests and personalities. I understand the CTO’s response and respect him for his savvy political skills.  At the same time, I wish my friend is clear on rules of engagement and ready to play by it. Are you?

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5 responses to this post.

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by techceo, techceo. techceo said: Politics@Workplace:Play The Game: #_techceo #politics #prodmgmt #business #career http://wp.me/p1lXvj-13 [...]

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  2. Posted by Simon Stevens on December 4, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    You have a very interesting take on the subject. Whilst I agree everyone has an agenda, don’t you think your friend next time could be reluctant to push information to a client in the future that could well be the deciding factor in getting the client to part with their money?

    Reply

    • Stevens, Thanks for your comment. I believe my friend has two options here – he can either shirk from sharing such information with the client or play it well by bringing CTO in the loop and getting his written consent before sharing it with the client. I hope my friend will choose the later as it is career vise progressive and politically prudent strategy.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Michelle E. on February 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Thanks for your practical advice on politics. Much better than the leadership Koolaid I was drinking for years, that frankly doesn’t work in many environments. My new job is all politics, which I feel is as basic and necessary a skill as typing. Problem is, I never learned it – lucky for you that you did. I’m glad they are teaching it now. I tend to internalize stress and lacking political skill, it is a stress for me. I just developed shingles!!! Aside for the pain, what makes this more upsetting for me (a healthy thin 34 year old) is when my doctor said than shingles is caused by stress. Only stress I can think of is one-year in a highly political job with no skills to deal with it and a recent major incident. Guess I internalized it a little too much despite wowrking out regularly, journaling, talking to friends, hobbies, and their apologies for their behavior!

    I’m not a gambler, don’t even understand it, but I went to a major casino yesterday to watch poker. There is so much in common between life-work-politics on the poker table.

    All political skill suggestions welcome.

    Reply

    • Thanks for your comment Michelle. Hope you are feeling better. There are some things that you only learn by working on them and politics is one of them. The awareness that politics is everywhere and one should embrace it is the first step. How you deal with it is what you learn by playing it. Also a friend once said – you either play or stay out of politics. There is no middle ground. I am sure you will figure out a way for your situation. Life is too short and health is very precious to waste on a job.

      Reply

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