A Few Words About Office Politics


Scooby-Doo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like Oliver James’s analysis in his book ‘They F*** You Up’, a look at surviving family life and better understanding how growing up in your family made you who you are today.


I have read the Guardian’s review of his latest offering ‘Office Politics’ and I am unsure what to make of it.


It seems the book’s thesis is that, ‘where blame can be spread and credit stolen, and the bonus pool depends on staying in the boss’s good graces, you need to know how to hustle’.  Hustling in this context seems to involve looking out for number one without being full-on nasty about it.


It is probably unfair to critique the book without having read it (the review can only give an impression of the whole) yet I found myself thinking: what about fostering an organisational culture which helps staff be their authentic selves in the workplace?


It seems to me the energy involved in developing and deploying a work-persona is considerable.  Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to put that energy into being authentic?  In that way there is no need to hustle, take others’ credit or keep in the boss’s good graces.


In addition what about the value of building a positive organisational culture, so there would be no need to look for some colleague, stakeholder or customer on whom to heap blame?




There is something quite small and petty about the idea of keeping a list of those to blame / identify as the enemy / seek retribution against.  Don’t misunderstand, mapping stakeholders who support what you are trying to achieve in a project makes sense.  Identifying those who will always oppose any change, your project will deliver makes sense.  Keeping a list of those you point to as, ‘always at fault’, seems like something out of Scooby Doo, (‘I would have got away with it too, if it wasn’t for you pesky kids!’).  It certainly feels unseemly and makes an organisation seem less than self-confident.


The BBC coverage of the National Rifle Association’s newly-discovered list seems to fall into this category http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21359486 .  I would certainly feel a bit nervous being in that organisation’s bad books.

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