Often, when I meet someone who has a lot of experience in a certain field or who is knowledgeable about a subject that I’m interested in, but know little about, I ask them about the one thing that they wish they had known when they first started out. This is a common question for newbies to ask and it’s a question that seems hard for some people to answer at first, but it usually doesn’t take too much thought before the responder starts to reminisce about some mistake that they made when they were younger or when they first embarked on their career. I hadn’t given this question much thought myself until recently, but, without a doubt, if I had a “Do Over” I would have challenged and hopefully, changed the way I thought about office politics (OP).
I now understand that the reason that I hated office politics with such a passion was that the way I was looking at OP was in the narrow context of the person who tricked others in order to get something that they didn’t deserve. That definition of OP bumped up against my values and made it impossible for me to “play da game”. And, as the Lottery people will tell you, “you have to play to win. “
Some of the thoughts that I had at different points were:
“I’m not going to lower myself to get ahead. “
“I’m better than that.”
“Why should I go to lunch/drinks, etc. with people who aren’t my friends? I’m not trying to tell them all of my business! “
“I’m too busy to be chit-chatting. I’ve got to get more billable hours.”
“I need a break at lunch, and I don’t want to spend it talking about work. “
“I’ve got other, more important, things to do at lunch/after work. “
“I’m going to leave my law firm and go in-house, where decisions are based on merit. “
Can I get an “Amen!” if you’ve ever said, thought or resembled any of these unhelpful, self-sabotaging thoughts???!!!!
What I now realize is that there is nothing wrong with Da Game per se. There might be some people who chose to play in a way that is different from the choices I would make, but that does not negate the value of Da Game. Da Game is just the natural flow of life. If given a choice, people tend to help people that they know and like. People can’t really like you if they don’t know you. When evaluating who should get assignments or territories or whatever is being allocated, people will give first to the easy targets. People they know, whose skills and interests they know and reciprocally, who they think like them. This is the choice with the least amount of risk to the giver and the most reward. If you think about it, it makes no sense to work your butt off trying to do a good job when no one knows that you did all the work or that you have the skills that they need, or that you have a special talent that might attract or retain a certain client.
So, if asked today what’s the one thing I wish I had known when I started my career, I’d say, “instead of hating Da Game, I’d learn the rules and win faster and easier. “
In upcoming posts, we’ll discuss how you can change the way you view da game and play in a way that honors who you are and your values.
Play Da Game or Go Home!
If you have an interesting story about a time when you played and won or, wish you had played, please share it. I’d love to hear from you so we can all learn from each other.