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In-house Politricks!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rajit Nair

Often, family owned businesses witness the ‘drama’ named power struggle. The senior employees trying to be closer to the business owner or the Chief Executive is very common. If one of them is an old-timer and was the ‘best man’ of the ‘big daddy’ or the person who established the business, then the drama will have more twists than expected. The new generation business owner (son or the heir) will naturally inclined to attracted to the dad’s man, at least during the initial learning phase would make life difficult for the other ‘aspirants’ trying to be closer to the ‘circle of power’. If the new generation business owner is also an actor, then s/he will make the senior employees more ‘creative’ in their race to the top. Imagine the state of an employee or employees who may get sandwiched between two power centers in an organization!

In such a situation, the employees will get lost, especially those in the management or support departments. In most cases, especially in family owned setups, smart employees will soon or later become ‘politicians’ to survive in such an environment where every move is based on the ‘Politricks’. All ‘players’ waste valuable time and effort as they expend their energies to knit strategies just to oust one from the race for power. Focus on the business will be lost and slowly the business bottom lines may get affected. In the ferocious corporate world, competitors are most likely to benefit from such internal state of affairs.

Structural fault in the design of reporting lines (Chain of Command) or Organization Structure also contribute or create avenues for such power struggle or create multi-power centers in an Organization. This is evident more in a Flat Organization with relatively few hierarchical levels than in a Tall Organization.

Hiring decisions also contribute to political dramas in family owned firms or unprofessionally managed companies, as Managers or Executives tend to hire only mediocre talent, so that they can ensure their position in the Organization / department and also ‘rule’ the subordinate employees with an ‘iron fist’.

When there is a Manager or Executive, who always shouts at the second level (Toxic Boss Syndrome), makes the junior levels insecure. In addition, such inappropriate and immature actions from the leader of the Organization also trigger lobbying against such Toxic Bosses. The insecure group will slowly start the job search and the company slowly but steadily will switch on the ‘conveyor belt’ as the employees start ‘rolling out’. Naturally, we need ‘level headed’ leaders in all Organizations to avoid such happenings. (Please read my previous article on leadership, (Lead the Ship!)

Mafia formation is another offshoot of internal politics. Some companies in the GCC, such mafias are so rampant and potent and HR departments in such companies act as ‘repellents’ for certain nationalities or religions (especially, when Indian mafias dominate the company).

Certain leaders are ‘born’ politicians and they constantly create conflicts among employees (divide and rule). This behavior has its origins in lack of self-confidence and lack of leadership skills. Given an opportunity such leaders will fabricate stories and create situations to make the direct supervisor of the employees look ‘stupid’ or to portray him/her as a ‘bad/weak boss’. In certain occasions, this would continue even after the spotless supervisor’s exit from the company. In certain other cases, any deserved promotion or change in salary for any employee in the Organization will be made as if it is done by the initiative of the ‘enterprising’ leader, even a strong recommendation was made by the immediate Supervisor. There is a strong possibility for the immediate Supervisor to get a ‘slap’ for such recommendations as well. These are ‘behind the door’ scenes that the employees on the other side may never come to know.

Such actions slowly but surely make abrasions in the thin hairline level of trust between the immediate Supervisor and the employees. Quality of work and there by the company functions will get derailed soon. The universal fact is that you can fool someone for sometime, but you can’t fool everyone always. All employees join hands (mafia formation) and systematically destroy the business is also a possibility, if corrective measures are not taken in advance. Imagine such frustrated mafia in a food retailer (eatery), employees can make the business owner run for his/her life.

In such companies there is also chance for others targeting the ‘favorite’ or ‘darling‘ employee of the Big Boss (Big B) or the Chief Executive. Wrong data or wrong directions can make such employee’s life miserable. Sometimes tactics like false flattering or appreciation of their work also is implied to speedup the downfall of the ‘darling’ employee. Many a times, the ‘darling’ employee will be fed with different versions of stories about other employees with a purpose of confusing the ‘favorite’. Mediocre work of such employee will be presented to the management with propaganda as ‘super talent’ even if the direct Supervisor might have changed the every word prepared by the ‘darling’. This high level of destructive tactic is like slow poison and if s/he is not smart enough to figure it out at the right time, the irreversible damage to his/her career or attitude might be the outcome. Slowly the employee becomes over confident and as s/he lacks expertise to detach derision and authentic comments, slowly falls into the web of self-destructive ego as well.

In a frustrated environment, such ‘darlings’ are viewed as special agents for the ‘Big B’ or the Business Owner. Sometimes, new employees also get to face this fate. Such employee’s first day at work is the best avenue to witness Politricks in action. If the new employee is already labeled as ‘favorite’ or ‘darling’ of the boss, then corporate ragging will reach its heights. In such companies, the co-workers might have already discussed and approved strategy beforehand the new hire assumes work. Cold welcome or greeting will be in the opening menu. Break rooms will also be the focal points for such dramas as well. When other employees having lighter moments during a break or seriously gossiping against the boss, the topic suddenly changes to aliens or India’s moon mission or Shilpa Shetty’s marriage when the ‘darling spy’ of the ‘Big B’ enters. Other employees would definitely script more interesting scenes and trigger academy-wining performances that would add spice to the harassment episodes. As I stated earlier, it is just sheer waste of time and effort and detrimental for the company.

To survive the Politricks at work, employees should have tremendous perseverance, have extra senses to avoid corporate traps and back stabbing. Always be alert and avoid loose talks. The best way is to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s way of 3 wise monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil".

Please keep visiting (every week) for more on the series “Fearless or Shameless”.

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