Thursday, 13 March 2008

Corporate Games aka Office Politics (Part 1)

Why don't you blog about Corporate Games? I think it will be an interesting topic. My mentor said this to me one day.

Yeah, right. Interesting. But the problem is I am like a kindergarden student when it comes to Corporate Games (aka Political Games) . I did remember the first day I was in the kindergarden school. There are several scenes where some kids threw tantrums, thrashed things and screamed to go home. I am proud to announce I was not one of them as I sat quietly and waited for my first lesson. Ironically, for corporate games lesson, I feel like I want to be like the kids who wanted to go home.

One part of kindergarden days that is similar to the initial learning of corporate games is that you never can expect what will be taught, who are your schoolmates, how they behave and how they will treat you. Sure enough I remembered the big fat bully aka the Bitch (ironically, the bully in my secondary school was in the same proportion of size, albeit in 2 times of the size). She used her appalling body and oppresive behaviour to intimidate the normal-5-years-old-size like me into following her command and "sharing" my lunches with her. Those who did not abide, would be the outcast and that's where they sat at one corner and nobody would play with them.

And then, you would also notice those so-eager-to-please doggy who followed her everywhere she went and anything she did, wagging their tails to her while barking at everybody else. And you know what, those group of people usually scored last in the class, except maybe the fat bitch. She must have some brains, at the very least, to lead a bunch of stupid people.

I guess kindergarden taught me more about corporate games more than anything else. I have been through some real corporate games, if you must know, and although I am still living healthily, I have escaped with some bruises and repressed eagerness to work in corporate environment. Still at kindergarden-level of knowledge in corporate games, I do not want to pretend I know a lot about it to qualify me to write a post (and good and bad news is I intend to write several posts). However, I think it is not hard to do some research to start something on these. Let us all learn together (that is always the intention of my blog) . Besides, my mentor will also share his experience with me. He is, after all, the master of tactics and strategy and that definitely includes corporate games. And he has seen it all. All the good, the evil, the kind, the mean, the black and the white of all that we had shared and experienced in this world.

Ok, let's go to the basic first in this part 1.

What is corporate game?

Edward B. Toupin said this:
A corporate game is an illegitimate means of getting things done. It is a way that people twist and turn situations to reach a specific goal. However, those people that don't play, risk their careers.

Politics and political maneuvering is the interpersonal conflicts and power
plays that exist in most organizations. Among the specific actions commonly associated with office politics are intimidation, indirect communications, covert tactics for advancement, manipulation for control, indirectly telling the truth, hiding vulnerability issues, and playing for favors.

Politics came about as a way of handling intense competition. Generally, business itself is a competitive game ranging from simple tests of skill to full-blown battles. The game is driven by survival conditions induced by an expanding world market in which companies must continue to change and grow. There's a constant challenge to overwhelm the opposition, reduce costs, and acquire additional resources. All of these attributes trickle down through the ranks to cause individual battles for promotions, rewards, and recognition at all costs.

Another reason for office politics has to do with the hierarchical structure of most organizations. The higher you advance, the less room there is at the top. As long as people battle for the "corner office," workplace maneuvers will reign. This is where the most intense battles occur and where most people find that they are stepped on or pushed aside.

Stephen Ryan said this:

Every business is comprised of a variety of different systems, including information systems, human management systems, corporate vision dissemenation systems, marketing systems, fianancial accounting systems, customer relation management systems, health & safety systems and legal and compliance management systems, to name but a few. Regardless of whatever size of business you run, your MD will most likely be responsible for maintaining all these complex structures and your own performance as a manager will be measured against how well each of these systems are developed. To achieve this you may well implement performance appraisal systems such as KPI (Key Performance Indicator) analysis systems, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) measures and transparent, open and authoratitive reporting to the shareholders of the company.

With so many systems to maintain and be responsible for, you'd have thought that there would be little room for introducing ever greater complexity. Especially where this complexity involves the establishment of systems that are not open, not transparent, not ethical and not based on good business practices, but rather rampant - self-interest. "Political Games Systems".

When managers feel pressured by the responsibility of maintaining existing business systems, many of them fall into playing the game of politics. For many, this is a subconcious reaction to being squeezed. For others, it is a game to be relished. A game for lazy people, a game for con-men. For procrastinators. For people who would rather play games - than do things that make a real difference to the business.

We call this the "politics - replaces responsibility" syndrome.

Why you need to learn corporate games?

Improperly managing power and politics can make or break your career, cause many sleepless nights, and often has very little to do with your actual job duties. Many people who fail in their jobs do so because of political problems, not skill deficiencies. Many intelligent and capable people aren't as successful as they might be because they haven't learned to cope with office politics. Understanding why you might be having difficulty at work involves understanding the basic elements of office politics and why it exists.

Whether you decide to play or not, don't get caught in the middle. If you become the individual that battles politics, then you become the scorned of the organization. If you decide to stay out of it completely, then do your job and stay out. Those on the other end of the spectrum that play will respect your decision because that alone gives them less competition in their own battles.

One thing you'll notice is that no one will admit to playing games; however, that is part of the secret of politics. You, on the other hand, cannot confront anyone for playing games; however, you can identify the games and learn how to manage them to suit your needs. Once you figure out how to do this, then your stress level will drop, and you'll be accepted in your environment.

The summary of the lessons are:
1. Understand and learn about corporate games. Do not be a fool to ignore it. Do not wait until you are played out or crushed in the game, then only you learn.

2. You do not need to play it to hurt people but DO NOT fight it. Learn how to manage it to suit your needs and to reduce your stress.

If you are a woman, there is no doubt you may be at a little more disadvantages compared to the other sex in the corporate world. You might want to look at the rules of the games for corporate women.

And for those who never really work in a corporate environment before, my advice to you will be - do try out to get a taste of the games while you are still young and fearless because the higher level you go in your career ladder, the more intense the corporate games will be. And you will definitely appreciate the lessons to tame your brashness.

1 comment:

autumnmusic said...

yeah, it's interesting alrite... but i don't like tat kind of world... period.

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