University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small. (Henry Kissinger)
You have to understand office politics to understand networking. Here is an example.
“Don’t get Joe in the IT planning office upset. He can delay any project by 6 months. Now that I think of it, he can kill any project. He’s politically connected to everyone in the company.”
Everyone, including the boss, who lets Joe “get away with it” think they are doing what is best for the company. And they really may be. Often you don’t see the power struggles at upper levels. When someone becomes the traffic cop and decides which projects get done and which get delayed, it is because of their networking ability. They know how important each person and project is. They know the alliances between leaders and departments. They know who has the “golden” projects that take precedence over all else. They know what combinations of projects are also essential. These political “beasts” are the ultimate networkers.
CEO’s cannot take the time to make decisions on every project. They tell others to make decisions. Those people, in turn, tell others to make decisions. Inevitably resources become scarce. The scarce resources can be clerks, programmers, salespeople, floor space or money. The person who controls the scarce resources becomes the center of a very strong network. They have to bow to the will of many people, but control the projects of others. They are often the most abused figure in a company. Occasionally they are the most abusive, for a while.
There are several things to learn from these people.
- Controlling scarce resources gives you power
- Dealing with that power can get you entrenched, promoted or fired
- You always control one scarce resource, your time
The first two have just been discussed. The third point is fodder for several more days. Politics may get ugly, petty and mean. It may also preserve the company you work for. Instead of avoiding politics, network. Through building a network you will find out who to worry about and who to avoid. Politics always includes networking. Networking can help you rise above petty politics. Networking can help you get your projects done.
Something To Do Today
If you dare, ask around. Find out who the political masters are. Ask them to lunch and find out why they got their reputation and power. You may be surprised at their attitude. They may be visionary, vindictive, or both.
Tomorrow: Your scarcest resource
Later: Short term rewards
What motivates me
Waiting for the “help wanted” sign