The politics of work

We have a new director who got hired for our team, and he is spending a couple of days with us here in New York this week. He introduced himself and put time on my calendar for us to catch up one on one. We were only supposed to meet for half an hour, but half an hour ended up turning into two-plus hours over the course of two days.

He introduced himself by saying that he can handle and would prefer that I be fully honest and blunt, that he could handle it, that he doesn’t really do very well with politics.

“You don’t do well with politics, huh?” I said to him coyly. “Well, we have quite a bit of that here, so I hope you enjoy.”

I can get away with being this provocative because I’ve pretty much earned the right to do that. It was amusing to see how he responded to certain things I said. This was actually enjoyable. In some ways, this almost feels like a bit of a game now.

I know everyone says they don’t like politics, that they don’t deal with it or put up with it. But let’s face it: once you are in an office environment or any kind of group environment, there’s inevitably going to be politics regardless of what you say or do. Some people are going to be favored over others for reasons other than concrete performance or data that backs up how “good” they are. Others are going to be dismissed because they have been labeled as “complainers” or view work with “low urgency.”

It’s exhausting. It’s why my dad retired early from his “day” job to run his own business. “Why should I slave away for the white man when I can earn my own money and work when I want?” he declared when he retired in 2001.

His words come back to me all the time when I get frustrated with work.

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