Power and Politics at the Office

I read in Harvard Business Review that power is gained by those willing to circumvent office rules to get what they want. I bet you can name someone in your office (just off the top of your head!) who is very, very good at this.

The skill is in knowing just how far to push it and when to reel it in. According to the research, this push and pull method works well. A skilled ladder climber knows how to keep it under the bar - delivering success (or the appearance of success) that seems related to their disregard for the people and procedures described in the employee manual. According to research, capriciousness actually creates power.

The problem according to the Jeffrey Pfeffer is that such methods are the source of the unhappiness of the rule-following employees. You know, the employees who show up on time.The employees that prepare thoughtful work in anticipation of client meetings. The employee you can count on. The employee everyone enjoys talking to. The one that works with diligence, patience, and an even-tempered approach.

You've probably seen it happen at your work. The questionably accomplished ladder-climber creates office havoc but gets promoted and earns more and more and more while the diligent, thoughtful employee achieves cost-of-living salary increases and more moderate promotions over a long period of time. Motivation declines. Learning and innovation suffers. It's wrong. It also happens all the time.

The conclusion of this very interesting article was that this conflict -- present in almost every work environment -- is a significant source of career unhappiness. And it is almost never addressed in any way, shape, or form. Not by management and not by the field of organizational behavior research.

Jeffrey Pfeffer's article, Power, Capriciousness, and Consequences was published in the April, 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review. Read the full text here and visit Pfeffer's website for more information on his research.

Now tell me about the climbers in your office...


Five Ways to Make Your Mark on the World

This three-minute video from Box of Crayons shows us five ways we can make our mark on the world.


I don't know about you, but I really struggle to identify what it is, exactly, that I'm "good" at or what sets me free. I'm "good," in a way, at sorting out other people's problems or taking care of things they don't want to do - but I'm not sure it's really that good for me.

I don't want to look in the shadows. I know that the answer is that I must look anyway -  but that's easier said than done. What I know is lurking there scares me. The number one thought I've had lately is that I don't care nearly as much about [specific] things as I once believed. This sets chaos in motion as I work to redefine how my life has been organized up until now. It's painful for me and for those around me, I suppose.

There's no spray for that. Just a great deal of agonized journaling, I suppose (since I can't afford therapy). And, quite frankly, I quit journaling some years ago. And I don't mean to be flip - I'm being realistic. I'm 42, I'm on a budget, and I have to be candid about who and what I am able to change. But 42 isn't 82, there's still time. Right? Right. The question is where to start.


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