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...


Introverts and the Office.


As long as I've been alive, I've been told that I'm a big talker/big feeler and in many ways that made alot of sense. The MBTI told me I was an ENFP which definitely made alot of sense in my younger years. I was always the idiot bringing donuts on someone's birthday, planning nights out with colleagues, or trying to recover emotionally from some failed effort toward an outcome that was never really in my hands anyway.

But the last few years I've been feeling something else. I think...I'm...an I. As in...I think I'm actually an INTROVERT.  I've been reading Susan Cain's Quiet book and following her website The Power of Introverts and...it's really kind of me. I do need to recover after social outings. I hate small talk. I prefer social events that involve very small groups. I don't like conflict. I love working on my own. I love weekends with absolutely nothing scheduled.

It's not to say I'm completely anti-social. Of course not. But there's been some freedom in realizing that I enjoy the small stuff. Perhaps all those years of planning events were about something else - wanting to make sure a person felt cared for - which can be done in many different ways. I'd like to re-take the MBTI and see what it comes up with.

Finding quiet space in an office environment is a real challenge for anyone, but it exhausts the introvert on an entirely different level. Really, the origin of the aromatherapy mood sprays I sell came from my own work-related stresses. So when I came across this article today, An Introvert's Guide to Surviving (and Thriving) in the Workplace by Carolyn Gregoire I thought I'd share it. For all the introverts who may be out there...

And by the way, you can purchase the famous Ostrich Pillow right here.


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