Illustrative Example of Introducing Managers to Organizational Politics


In my last post, 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.

In the next five posts, I will provide illustrative examples about how managers can be politically sensitized to improve their chances of survival in the post 2008 zoo.

The first example will relate to a project manager named Ted in a company called 3Q.

3Q promises an upgrade to all its key products every three quarters; although 3Q never delivers as promised, 3Q is performing much better than its competitors.

Employee satisfaction at 3Q is very low; he atmosphere is aggressive; yet 3Q rarely fires employees and pays fairly well. Project managers have a yearly churn rate of 20% worldwide.

Ted comes from the military, where he was educated in rigorous and disciplined project management. For Ted, a commitment is a commitment is a commitment. The work at 3Q is Ted’s first exposure to project management in a non military environment.

Ted has 5 choices to manage the ludicrous commitments which have been rammed down his throat:

1) As he did in the military, in which case he will branded as a naysayer and pushed out of strategic projects.

2) Ted can agree to all commitments forced down his throat, and wait till someone else does not deliver a component  to him, and then “pass the blame”.

3) Ted can mask risks in ambiguity, so that what he says can be understood several ways. Eg, “while the goals appear aggressive, effective risk mitigation has been put in place to secure the needed focus etc.”.

4) As delivery deadlines approaches, Ted can start to very slowly expose delays and problems when he smells organizational “readiness” for more transparency,he can then ask for more time in exchange for future functionality.

5) Ted can over consult his boss or flood his boss with details,  until Ted’s boss is forced to attitudinally align with the commitment sham.

Ted chose to tell it as it is, military style; “I want to be a straight shooter; we need 5 quarters for this project”, said silly Ted. Ted was assigned to managing a minor project in supply chain, and  he left the company after 6 months.

You can follow me @AllonShevat

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One thought on “Illustrative Example of Introducing Managers to Organizational Politics

  1. I actually experienced a similar case where a former Brigadier General engaged in using what he referred to as “significant emotional events” to change people’s work practices (i.e.: gestapo style treath tactics ). When his new civilian boss learnt about it through a series of grievances to HR, he froze all of his chances of accessing higher echelons in the Public Service. The Ex-General shrugged it as “civilian tender bellies” unwilling to get the mission accomplished; the Agency responsible for assessing executive potential referred to his leadership accumen as “irrelevant and contextually inept”.

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