Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It’s not what you know; it’s who you know - Managing intra-office politics

I am a pretty diplomatic person at work and, probably because I'm one of the few foreigners in the office, people are pretty lenient on me when I break the proper office etiquette at some point. I might have at some point, some more or less strained relationships with some colleagues due to disagreement around strategy or the proper way to do things, but I am pretty free of "enemies" in the office. I usually do not either get involved in the in-office politics much as a result and like the Swede I am, I am probably seen as a neutral entity which most people can work with in some ways.

But the other night, I went out for drinks and dinner with a couple of my colleagues; I'm-not-gay-guy and Huge-Mobile-Strap-Collection-Girl, who are working deep within the sales department and who shed some light on the latest politics and gossip in the company.

It's always interesting and I am seriously considering to chart up conflicts and long time grudges that is moving inside the company to kinda map them out more clearly. Considering that the company is comparatively small (less than 200 people in Japan excluding manufacturing) it's quite an impressive amount of network of alliances, animosity and open hostility that is at work in the company under the surface and which most of the time is hidden from my view due to my general status as neutral non-combatant.

First we have to local area conflicts; Osaka doesn’t like Sapporo, Sapporo likes Kyuushuu but Nagoya and Sendai hate each other but everyone wants to take Tokyo down. Then there are the inter-department conflicts; Dep. A doesn't like Dep. B, B and C dislike each other but work together due to their even larger hatred of A etc. etc. Then there are the intra-department conflicts; with peons inside the department hating each other, their department heads and so on.Then of course it’s the purely personal conflicts with people hating each other for some vague reason going way back to ancient history (finance lady X once got snotty with Sales Rep Y due to some long forgotten reason and is forever branded as a bitch by him etc.).

It is amazing that work occasionally gets done at all in the company... Part of me kinda feel like I want to see more of these conflicts, but I think I'm better off keeping my head above the water instead.

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