People ... come to me and ask about ... with their jobs orwithin their ... The primary question I hear is "What do I ... Usually, they got caught up in a turf war or game
People occasionally come to me and ask about situations with their jobs or within their companies. The primary question I hear is "What do I do if...?" Usually, they got caught up in a turf war or game and have no idea what to do next. Most of my answers come out sounding like a military battle plan. However, the type of information I provide is a mutated form of an MBA course taught in many closed-door, corporate management classes.
This series of articles, called "Corporate Games for a Rainy Day," is an idea that's been shoved in the corner of my brain for quite a while. The information consists of knowledge from corporate classes as well as practical experience in a couple of corporations for which I worked. I'm not going to pass ALL of my games on to you in these articles; however, I am assembling an e-book that will provide you with a complete list of games and how to deal with each. I'm sure that you'll either enjoy the reading or send nasty notes because I'm giving away secrets to your employees. Whichever you choose, at least I know that you've read it!
--- My Corporate America ---
I've worked in several HUGE corporations and start-ups as gopher, grunt, engineer, and manager. The one thing I've found during this journey is that---all companies are the same. You laugh? It's true!
* Corporate Organization Simplified
The company itself has one primary objective---to make money. It doesn't matter how they go about making money, whether it be a product or a service, the result is the same. Make a profit!
Within a company, departments are formed to support the direction of the overall organization. Within each department, you have individuals who lead, others who follow, and a few who simply get in the way. Each type of individual is attracted to a group with which they feel comfortable or that they can use to get ahead. This is where the problem begins!
Of course, it is good that people want to get ahead. They want to prove their worth, move into the next higher group, and appear to be contributing to the bottom line of the company. But, for one person to get ahead, someone else has to fall behind. It is in the attempt to get ahead that politics rears its ugly head and the games and turf wars begin.
* Politics Defined
In reality, politics is the self-governing of the free. It is a way that people choose their own destiny and govern themselves to an ultimate point or destination in their life. When applied to corporations, politics represents an illicit method of getting things done; however, it is an important element of corporate behavior that can affect your career.
To properly navigate through the morass of political tangles within a corporation, you must have the political know-how to open the doors to the elite groups of the company. The problem is that the road to attaining such know-how is kept vague by many of those who have successfully traveled through those doors.
Whether the company is large, medium, or small, there are the same people with the same ideas and the same approaches to the same situations. The advantage is that, once you learn how the general games and turf battles work, you can feel at home regardless of the company!
--- Have any good ideas lately? ---
One of the more frustrating and least noticeable games is the "Steal the Idea and Wait Six Months" game. It is a game in which you present an idea that is turned down by your boss. In about six months, your idea comes back to live in the body of another individual.
* The Setup
You have developed an idea that can provide support for or creates a solution for some element of your company. You've thought about it, researched it, and decided that you should be proactive and approach your boss with an idea.
You put together a presentation and setup a meeting with your boss. He tells you, however, that it will be a private meeting. You go all out and tell him everything.
Once you're finished with your end of the presentation, he sits quietly for a moment. You continue chattering to fill in the blanks. Once he's had time to consider the idea, he essentially smashes it to pieces. You leave his office, dejected, and let the idea go.
* The Assault
Six months later, you're sitting in a meeting held by your boss. He carries on for a while and then presents this mutated version of your original idea. At least it sounds like your idea, only it's less mature than when you presented it. It's like he changed it and left out some key elements that you had already presented. Suddenly, your boss hands the project to one of your peers and tells her to make it work.
Over the weeks or months that follow, the idea takes shape, with input and assistance from your boss. He provides the intricate details to your peer that he had originally left out of "his" presentation. Eventually, your peer presents your idea in a meeting in the same way you presented it to your boss in the first place.
--- Solutions ---
Of course, this is frustrating, yet it happens time and time again to many people in corporations. The best way to handle such a situation is to accept it---the first time. But, when the second time comes around, you should be prepared to handle yourself professionally.
Once you experience this situation the first time, your boss will probably, privately, pat you on the back and give some type of excuse as to why he handed your idea off to another person. You will then be given a different project to block your time so that he will look as though he had "bigger plans for you." At this point, you have five choices:
- quit, - become a quiet worker-bee, - report it to his manager, - realize that you are now in a good brown-nosing position, or - you can reverse the game.
When you first encounter such a game, it can be quite frustrating. No matter how much you despise what has happened, don't quit! This is a common game and it is not a personal attack. This is merely a situation that you allowed to become out of your control. Learn how this game works as you will encounter it again in later job opportunities.
* The Quiet Type
As for becoming a quiet worker in your position, it's too late. Your boss knows that you have good ideas in your head and he will want more. If you button-up and never devise ideas again, your chances of a raise will diminish as will your longevity in that company. You will probably be hustled into the worst possible projects simply because you won't play anymore.
* Report to His Boss
This approach is never good under these circumstances. Again, the issue is not a personal attack. It is merely a chance your boss saw to gain a few points with his boss. Let it ride and don't go above his head for this situation as you will only cause problems for yourself. Besides, learn from it and figure out how you can gain a few points with your boss in this situation.
As for the brown-nosing position, you are now in a good position to make your way into the boss' good graces. Feed him some more good ideas, make him look good, go for the gusto. You now have a chance to ride the wave in right behind your boss. However, do you know which wave your boss is actually riding?
One thing you have to realize is that your boss will not be in that position forever. He could get promoted or laid off and even quit, leaving you to fend for yourself. If you decide to become a brown-noser, you will end up looking like an idea-less fool. Remember, you quietly gave all of your ideas to him in exchange for grace.
* Reversing the Game
I've always seen reversing the game as a way of gaining a little bit of control over this type of situation. You must always be professional, but professional retaliation can be more ruthless than all out physical battle. You need to plan any type of retaliation so that it does not come over as being personal and so that you come out ahead.
The best reversal for this game is to come up with your next idea, plan it out, and generate a solid, detailed, hardcopy report. Once it is complete, place the hardcopy of the plan in your desk drawer. Now, prepare a secondary "verbal" presentation of your plan, but leave out a few non-trivial, yet not-so-obvious, pieces of the puzzle. Present this verbal-only plan to your boss.
When your boss holds his meeting and hands your idea off to one of your peers, have an impromptu meeting with that peer. Tell her how lucky she is to work on the project and give her your original hardcopy. Tell her that you were already considering a "very general rough" of the idea and would be happy to consult if she needs any assistance.
--- What's next? ---
A key to this game is privacy. If your boss initially tells you that he wants to discuss your idea in private, then you should get the idea that you're in trouble.
I have no idea why six months is usually the time that passes before the assault occurs, but that's the standard turn around time for the resurrection of ideas. It appears that it has something to do with the hope that everyone involved will forget about the original idea and move on to other projects.
Also, an important side to this game, and others, is that of the "quiet time" that ensues when you've finished speaking. This quiet time is created to force you to continue your chattering to divulge other information that you would probably have never told your boss in the first place. In this situation, your best bet is to sit quietly as well.
Reversing the game is a professional way of maintaining your dignity, keeping your place in the company as an intelligent individual, and allowing your boss to build up some of his own personal glory. One important thing to realize is that you want to oscillate between brown-nosing and reversal. If you reverse too often, your boss will learn the pattern and he won't trust you. You have to wait for at least two assaults before you reverse the first time so that he does learn to trust you. Then, brown-nose for a time or two before you reverse the game again.
The point is not to reverse too often so as not to ruin your relationship with your boss. But, you don't want to be seen as an idea-less fool that kisses up to the boss to keep your job.
Edward B. Toupin is a published author and technical writer living in Las Vegas. He writes e-books, print books, and articles for various markets. You can visit his Web site at http://www.toupin.com or contact him at email@example.com. Also, visit his online library at http://www.toupin.com/lib_index.html