I, for one, cannot wait for season 2 of the morning show. I know it’s a behind-the-scenes look at a major network’s morning show (which is so brazen to just call itself The Morning Show), but what I really liked about it was how it explored office politics. Also, it’s set in New York City (though sometimes shot in LA) and they have the Cory Ellison character, who is my favorite (more about that later).
Just a thought: when did the term “Politics” be something negative (or at least immediately associated with something negative)? Like when you say “office politics”, most would immediately think there’s a lot of unsavory things you have to navigate through when you join that organization. To be clear, it’s the negative of office politics that’s the theme of this blog post.
One of the scenes I really like is in the season finale, when Chip Black was conducting a team meeting after the show. He started it reprimanding his crew and ended it telling them their “his guys” after finding out he’s been asked to a meeting with the CEO for something he’s been dreading for some time now. The lines “You’re my unsung heroes and that is my fault that you are unsung… but I am not a (bleep) singer” are some of the most hilarious in the show. But it’s his “I’m sorry I yelled. I was laughing on the inside.” about the grammatical error on the teleprompter (which was the point of his meeting) that I thought was nice. The line was sort of a throw-away, but Mark Duplass’ delivery made it memorable. It’s also something that most middle management people must go through. It’s fine if you just care so much about their job and team, but when you only care because you have top management breathing on your neck then that’s you playing office politics.
See much like traditional politics, unless you completely overhaul the structure or have enough seed to effectively be able to not normalize it anymore, you’ll have to deal with office politics. You can either embrace it (which only helps in promulgating it further), completely veer away from it (which if you’re the only one doing it, can be career suicide), or go Cory Ellison (my favorite character). The latter means you pick your battles while using clever misdirection so as not to get too much attention on you.
This maybe a bit extreme (or shallow), but when an organization can’t pull the trigger on getting free coffee for the company (the bar is set so low with this, see this old blog post) but you find out it has several budget heavy activities exclusive for management – that’s office politics. Office politics, especially when most care too much about it and their own personal gain, can lead to organizations stagnating. It’s when positions that should have required a certain specialization or experience are given to unqualified people just because they spent years in a different department. It’s when resources needed to upgrade systems were not utilized but the team that’s supposed to do it remain intact because they’re friendly to senior management (or at least their head is). It’s when extra work is dumped to majority of the workforce all for the benefit of the few. It’s when regardless of how skilled or hard-working you are, you won’t be considered for promotion unless you’re “visible”. This last one is different from you building up your network, which is essential in all aspects of life, this one is that you just need to be recognizable.
I’m writing this not because I’m salty about office politics. I admit, it’s tiring, but I like to Cory Ellison it. It has worked for the most part, but it has also nagged on my mind because I just want to work my actual job sometimes. Unless you are absolutely confident you can change it, learn how to use office politics for your advantage. Learn to see when people are just out to “use” you for their advantage. Recognize that you have to treat people differently. There are people who think it’s offensive if you send them a simple “thoughs?” email and there are people who’ll ignore your note if it’s more than a paragraph. And whatever you do, don’t forget about that damn office coffee (or whatever refreshments non-coffee drinkers need).
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Categories: thoughts with kape