Friday, July 08, 2005

Political Animals in the Corporate Zoo

Political Animals in the Corporate Zoo

In the corporate world, you have to deal with many different types of people. No two person think alike; so disagreements, often leading to animosity can easily occur. Those who happen to share certain common interests or opinion will form cliques among themselves.

Factionalism will inevitably arise, anywhere, anyhow once the number of people achieves a certain critical mass. Everyone, either consciously or unconsciously, works for their own self interest first. They cluster into cliques not only because they feel more comfortable among like-minded people but it also helps them to promote their own self-interest. The existence of cliques leads to power struggles and factional politics. Hence, politics in the office is something that is ultimately inevitable.

Now, why can't one stay clear of any office politics? Well, maybe you can go to office everyday and just do what you are supposed to do and go home. Such a situation can exist, but only for a very short while. And during this time it'll be very peaceful because you won't have any enemies to worry about. The drawback is that, you won't have any close friends either--because you don't belong to any cliques. All you have are casual office acquaintances.

You can adopt this "mind your own business" attitude only if you are lucky enough to have a boss who thinks that your existing contributions meet his or her expectations. But you do not have the luxury of only working for one boss for the rest of your corporate life. Nothing remains static in the corporate world: you or your boss could get promoted, or get assigned to a new role (which is more "challenging").

So you end up with a new department and a new boss. He or she might have very different ideas on what's expected of you. You may think that you are doing a wonderful job but your boss could still come to you and say: "That's not what I expected you to do. You should be focussing more on this, this, and this..."

Now, this shouldn't be a problem if you immediately fine-tune your work to meet the boss' expectation. But you are reluctant to do so, simply because you'd rather operate in your comfort zone--doing things that you are already doing so well.

You continue doing what you do also because there are others who happen to praise your contribution. Slowly and imperceptibly, you begin to mingle more with them. Then you realize that there are also a few others who share the same opinion and work-style as you. And there, you have a clique already. And during tea-time you group together to talk bad about the bosses and people from other cliques.

I see these things occuring again and again in all the companies that I've worked for. One is always--either directly or indirectly--involved in office politics, whether one likes it or not. Thank God I'm out of all that now. And I certainly have no desire to return to any large multi-national company anymore, no matter how good the pay and the perks are.

It's much better to be scavenging for food in the wild than to be cooped up in a corporate zoo, with those well-fed political animals.

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