I despise the concept of corporate politics, because it flies in the face of both common sense and basic business sense. Anything that prevents an employee from doing his or her job doesn’t belong in the workplace.
(Do employers want you playing solitaire on your computer? No, because it’s not work, and it’s a waste of time. So why would they want you playing any other games?)
I used to think that when people talked about corporate politics, they were referring to unwritten rules like:
- Don’t make your boss look stupid.
- Pretend you’re happy to work overtime for no pay.
- Pretend everything the client says is brilliant.
I was wrong. There’s a whole other level to the game that goes beyond the common-sense stuff and into the realm of the Bizarro World.
Some of the “rules” I’ve encountered (and which I was expected to know already by virtue of the fact that I’d been previously employed, as though all companies operate under the same set of nonsensical rules):
- “Don’t copy Bob on an email you’ve also copied Joe on, even if both of them need to receive the email.” Okay. . . .
- “If our VP says, ‘I can see that something is bothering you — what’s going on?’ don’t answer the question. He doesn’t want to hear about what’s going wrong. Put on a fake smile, say everything is fine and walk away.” I followed up by asking why, then, did this VP continually reiterate that he wanted to know if we were having difficulty with something or needed his help. The answer I got was, “He doesn’t mean it. He just says that because he’s supposed to. You’re not right out of college; you should know that.” Okay, I didn’t believe for a second that it was true, but even if it had been, how the *$#@ would I know that?!? I’m not Helga-freaking-TenDorp!)
- “I know Bruce consistently drops the ball on our projects, and it creates problems for several departments and costs the company money every month. But his boss really likes him so we can’t say anything.” Another supposed rule I couldn’t believe. I doubt any decent exec wouldn’t want to know he has an employee
who is costing him money.
- “Don’t tell Susie that the postcard stock she pre-ordered won’t allow us to print our logo on it without violating our brand standards. The money has been spent, and that’s more important than our brand.” Again — okay. . . .
Those are just the high points.
Each of these revelations was supremely frustrating to me because it was hurled at me as though I should have known them without being told, and because it prevented me from doing my job to the best of my ability. Regardless of my position or the company I work for, I am responsible for assisting the company in remaining and/or becoming more profitable. If you tell me I have to veer off that course solely because we can’t shine a light on the ineptitude of a particular muckity-muck’s favorite employee, or that we can’t address another employee’s mistake because of his title, that’s the moment I lose faith in your judgment, and respect for you.
That doesn’t mean we can’t still work well together. It does mean, however, that we will only be working together until I can find another job; one where my knowledge and skills are valued more than the rules of a petty game, and where people don’t place a higher premium on ego than on the company’s bottom line.