“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” — Niccolo Machiavelli
Playing power games and office politics sucks ass. Unfortunately, if you want to achieve your goals, sometimes it’s a necessary evil. Otherwise, you lose by default.
My mom worked in geriatric care when I was a kid. When she came home she’d talk with friends or my grandma about work, I’d sit on the floor, listen, and play with my action figures.
Her main gripes would be about how people played games, sucked up to the boss, and we’re just terrible toward the patients.
She wanted to change that and was thwarted every step of the way.
I admire my mother. She’s my hero. I modeled my behavior after her and didn’t always fit in because of it. I wore it like a badge of honor.
Unfortunately, it caused me a lot of unnecessary grief. Especially when I had to get a job.
You see, integrity is an amazing and admirable trait. However, it doesn’t always yield the results you desire.
What I mean by that is that integrity can scare people in positions of authority. It threatens them. And they’ll do everything in their power to stop you from getting the things you want.
It’s not that they’re necessarily “bad people”, it’s just a natural reaction to feeling threatened.
That’s what happened with my mom. When she tried to apply for courses and develop her skills, people in power stood in her way. She didn’t care to figure out what they needed or wanted because she didn’t want “play the game”. She felt that since she did a good job and was a decent human being that it’d be enough and that people would sooner or later recognize that.
Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out that way.
Now, my mother is very happy about the choices she made. She followed, and still follows, the path she believes to be right. But by doing that it doesn’t always let her accomplish some of the things she wants to.
As for me, I’ve learned another lesson. I learned that it’s far more important for me to accomplish the things I want to accomplish in life rather than worry too much about how I actually get there.
That doesn’t mean that I’m going to steal, lie, and cheat.
But it does mean that if I need to go through a period where I brown nose, play office politics, and accept that power games are being played, then that’s what I’ll do.
In the interest of transparency though, I haven’t always been a “good guy Greg”. I have indeed lied and withheld the truth to achieve certain goals. Simply because telling the truth would’ve stopped me, and the other person, from getting what we both wanted.
That’s also the key for me. It needs to be in the best interest of both parties. If you’re only doing it for your own gain and at the expense of someone else, that’s a loss in my book.
Now, I’m not proud of this, but I can confidently say that in the end it was for the better. Also, I hope that it was the last time I do it.
For some this is a clear violation of their integrity. They wouldn’t stoop to that level. And that’s fine. If you’re not comfortable with it, then don’t do it.
But please, don’t complain if you find that it’s a thousand times harder and that the people who brown nose, play office politics, and accept that power games are a thing, blow past you and achieve their goals much quicker.
You know that the system is set up that way. And either you choose to play or you don’t. Bitching about the way it actually is and how much better it could be, doesn’t change the fact that it is what it is.
What you can do is try and change the system. But that takes a lot of time and effort.
Now, some might want to work outside the system while others like to work within the system.
For example, when it comes to music I’ve chosen to operate outside the traditional system, because I feel I can make another kind of impact and choose projects more carefully than if I’m tied to a bigger company. The trade off is money. If I’d choose to work within the system I’d get a lot more money, but it’d be at the expense of my autonomy.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take into consideration the fact that independent labels and artists have been instrumental for me. The fact that people have built up a DIY eco system is something that benefits me greatly.
When it comes to other fields I willingly play within the rules of the system because there it benefits me to be more of an “insider”.
These are things I learned pretty late in the game, but I’m grateful that I learned them at all.
I look at it as a set of stairs to climb.
- See the game.
- Learn the rules.
- Change the game.
What my mom, and I for a while, did was to try and skip that third step. We tried to go past it and straight to winning and changing the game.
While I’ve heard and read plenty of stories about people who claim to have won and changed the game, so far I haven’t found an example of someone doing it without step 3.
I don’t want to glorify it because I find it really stupid. But I accept that it’s there, and me wishing it away doesn’t change a damn thing.
While I’ve attained some small victories they haven’t put me in the position to “change the game”. I’m still making my way there.
One step at a time.
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