Lesson 8: It’s All About Politics

Corporate life is about politics. The sooner your admit it the quicker your lessons learned. Even if you are competent, more efficient and able than most of your colleagues you still need to take politics into account—or maybe especially in that case. When you are aware of the political games you have a choice. You can choose to join the game or stay out of it but on your terms. Ignoring or denying their existence is the worst of the three options. In that case you are playing the victim role and making yourself vulnerable for causes that are not worth it.

Facts are important but they are not the whole solution. So once again doing your job well is not good enough. Impression is everything. You have to present your case and ideas in a simple and attractive form. In another words you have to sell your ideas so that they are quick and easy to absorb. Pure facts will not get you the support you need when emotions are at play, too. Corporations are about people and people are humans. They are not rational machines. They have good and bad days, worries, domestic problems, and career aspirations. What does all this mean? Surprisingly frequently irrational decisions are made: the decision-maker(s) had a good impression or feeling about the person or the project, they loved the idea, or they had hidden agendas to satisfy (e.g. boost their own ego, increase the departmental importance/budget etc.). In some cases it’s more about who presents the idea than about the very project in question. In other occasions the complete ‘solution’ is more appealing than the more substantial alternatives. People who appear to be problem-solvers are liked. They remove worries from someone else’s plate and since everyone seems to have enough of them on their own it is no wonder that less trouble is received as good news. Naturally the reality might turn out to be an entirely different case but since impression is everything it counts only when it matters. The rest is only execution and reporting. Don’t be surprised to realise that project objectives and outcomes are not typically vigorously scrutinised afterwards, especially in cases when things turn south. It’s not uncommon that the very decision-makers have moved on or at least the management mantra or main objectives have altered along the new winds of continuous but often incremental change (read crises).

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