To advance your career, you need to manage the piece-by-piece moves on the board of office politics. I describe office politics as the inner workings of an organisation that encourage or obstruct individuals from securing a benefit. The shift from the productive to the dark side occurs when individuals unduly obtain a benefit to the detriment of co-workers and/or the organisation. It involves a combination of toxic behaviours, abuse of positional power and unethical conduct. The ubiquitous nature of communication from e-mails to PDA’s facilitate rapid transmission of information beyond traditional organisational hierarchies. Here are two real life experiences with these factors: a competent executive PA applied for half a dozen internal positions, only to receive a rejection letter after the interview. Further investigation revealed a red trail to her boss. He deceptively supported her applications when she discussed them. Behind the scenes, he coerced the line managers to not appoint her. He was determined to keep her in the existing position to support his career. In the second experience, the project team formed to restructure the HR department wrote up the positions to match their expertise. They also provided loopholes in the job profile requirements for their ‘yes’ men to fill them. The result was an expensive bureaucratic structure with incompetent staff.
Steering your career through the office politics game is a complex affair – you should analyse the different individuals or groups pursuing multiple agendas in each situation. Depending on the dynamics of the situation and the implications for your career, you may benefit from independent professional career assistance. Ultimately, your decisions will reveal the extent to which you are willing to stand up for your convictions, trade on justice, fit in with the group and build a healthy personality for the organisation.
(Star Workplace, March 2007)