Monday, July 21, 2008

Office Politics Must Die

Power games, covert intrigues and other Machiavelli crap have puzzled me each time I ran into them in the office. I could never understand why people needed to do these things. Now that I think of it, I probably never got it because, even though I am not in love with my job and this profession wasn't my first choice, on some level I have always enjoyed what I do for a living. It has always felt more like a videogame than labor to me. Yes, I had to work long hours sometimes, but what gamer hasn't stayed up all night trying to get to the last level? And yes, I've been in production crises, situations so scary they made my hair stand up on end, but who hasn't faced violent death as a video game character? I could always count on my old boring job to get my adrenaline running. I never needed any additional excitement in form of plotting against a coworker. Work was excitement enough. Also, looking back, I've been good at what I did. I never needed fucked-up head games to get ahead. So it's always been hard for me to get through my head that someone else might. Don't get me wrong; I've always been aware of that stuff going on. I hated it. But I learned to live with it. You just had to smile and be your usual nice self; more than your usual nice self with the SOB that tried to stab you in the back. That guy, you had to fucking woo. You had to keep doing what you were paid to be doing, and do it well. Oh, and document everything. Somehow this approach has always made my problems go away, often together with the people who created them. My honest conviction is that, if you plot long enough and hard enough, you will eventually plot yourself right out of your job. The Hindus do speak of karma; who knows, that could be it. Or, more likely, when you keep messing with people, eventually you are bound to mess with the wrong person.

It hurts the most when office politics comes from friends. I knew this guy in my old job. We were close. We were soul mates. We spent a lot of time together. I uncomfortably remember going out to dinner with him once on Mr. Goldie's birthday, because it was the only day my friend was in town that week. I freakin admired that man. One day, he stopped by my desk with a random request. I told him that, at the moment, I was working on a critical project and couldn't drop it to do what he asked; but that I'd take his request next. I also asked him to let my supervisor know, just so he'd be in the loop. My friend walked away. Ten minutes later, I get a forward email from my supervisor. The guy had emailed him about our conversation, completely misinterpreting its contents and making me look like an idiot. That was the day our friendship ended. I just couldn't take the guy anymore. To have another lunch with him would have been like sharing a restaurant table with a cockroach. I don't know what possesses people to send nasty emails about others behind their back. I've never seen this shit not come around. It always gets back to the very person you were gossiping about. Never fails. The up side is that, in every office, there are one or two people who never sink to the office politics level, even when things are tough and playing dirty seems inevitable. I have always made notice of these people. I try to remain friends with them; to keep in touch. Most of them can be found in my LinkedIn connections. If you're one of them and you are reading this, email me, we'll have dinner sometime. We need to stick together; we're a dying breed.

I am getting older now. In my line of work, it is the kiss of death. Younger people are more up to date on new technologies and can learn faster. Very soon I will probably go from very good to decent to average to blah as a professional. What I wonder about is, when I'm no longer as good and doing my job is no longer as easy, will I have to resort to playing office politics, backstabbing, intriguing, trying to squeeze the next guy out of his job before he can squeeze me out of mine?

Honestly, I'd much rather spend my old age bagging groceries.

The Goldie has spoken at 10:55 PM

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