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?