Since I was an intern, I was being warned of the existence of office politics. One of my mentors gave me the advice that no matter how open the the culture of a company is, there is likely to be bureaucracy and I will have to learn to live with it, or even better, to make good use of it. Last Friday, I walked into the office of the CEO and was trying to return some of the really useful management books; while once again, we touched on the topic of office politics.
He told me that he was once being told that to be outstanding in a company; you have to be the greatest politician. He despised that. But then as time goes on, he discovered that this is very true and to say this in a business way, it would have a new name -- "governance". What does that exactly mean? I would sum that up as the balancing of power with logic as well as human factors. You have to think of balancing each person's power in the most logical and efficient way with people's feeling in mind, as well as whether you will get the support you need.
Honestly, I cannot agree more with this theory and I did not understand the essence of this concept until recently when I stated working as a full-time employee. As a fresh graduate and a new employee of the company, I was assigned to be trained by a colleague at the very early stage, and the to a senior manager to give me guidance at work. Who is my direct boss? Who should I please and focus on more? Whose decision should I follow and whose comment should I pay my attention on? Tons of these questions come into my mind whenever there are contradictions between the expectation of different parties and I have to balance the two. I guess I haven't been doing so well as an "office politician" and there are definitely a lot more to learn.
My friends who are still at school asked me whether I like school more or work more. I once thought that the following answer is lame, but after experiencing it, it is really how I feel. I think the two things are very different in nature and I simple can't compare them. I enjoy work, because it is exciting with unlimited challenges and whenever I am off work, I have my own leisure time to focus on other things and I won't have assignments to take home. On the other hand, I love school, because it is a comparatively fair system. If you study hard enough, you go to the examination hall, and you are very likely to get the grade you deserve. You don't have to worry about how everybody thinks about you and you won't be assessed y people every single minute.
Not more than once that after a couple failures of getting the agreement I want or receiving some criticisms from a third party saying it's from my direct boss, that I discovered how office politics come into place and I successfully use similar tactics to cope with it. It is unavoidable that a big office has rumors and unnecessart comments going around affecting people's self-perception. No matter how good a company is, there are people who like using power and authorty to manipulate people instead of creating synergy. Figuring out how to live wisely in the middle of all these is not an easy task and it definitely takes time, but then everyone who works in an office should learn these techniques and my thought is that everyone would eventually find their own way to live with all these, so there is no general principles that can be provided.
Ladies and gentlemen, office politics can help or ruin you. Be aware and hope you can become one of the star politician in the office one day! Good luck!