Illustrative Example #3: Introducing Managers to Organizational Politics-Goal Setting

At the outset of the week,  I related to a lack of systematic initiation into organizational politics, resulting in talented and motivated people losing out to folks with more political acumen.

Then, I began a series of five short posts illustrating how to initiate managers for more political awareness in the post 2008 zoo.

The goal of these posts is not to prescribe behaviour, rather to illustrate a gamut of frequently observed political behaviours, both positive and negative. It is my belief that in the same way that young kids should not learn sex from watching porn stars, neither should young managers learn organizational politics by being screwed, or by listening to some idealistic consultant or coach describe organizational life as it “should” be.

The first example dealt with committment management in over committed organizations

The second example related to managing your boss.

Once again today, I will provide illustrative examples about how managers can be politically sensitized. We will look a a few particularly Machiavellian tactics in goal setting!

1) At face value, a manager should set reasonable goals and achieve them. If the results are outstanding, he should be rewarded and if the results are not achieved, lesson should be learned and corrective action should be taken. Easy stuff.

2) Yet goal setting can first and foremost a political process and a negotiated process of managing a boss’ and the organization’s expectations of its managers.

3) In highly political organizations, goal setting probably has a political script which is quite different from the real and more “functional” script. For example, the budget “exercise” from Oct-December may be a political script written for the “street” or for worried investors and nosy analysts. The “more realistic” goals become apparent based on the real world, which often is very “detached” from the budget exercise.

4) Politically astute managers either under promise and over-deliver, or under promise-then-negotiate rather than being too realistic upfront (to prevent undue pressure), or “throw out” promises to calm the budget planners and the CEO, only to gradually slip and provide excuses.

You can follow me @AllonShevat

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