Monday, August 9, 2010

The Job You Save May Be Your Own

Marilyn Moats Kennedy has written about office politics for upwards of three decades. As far as I can tell - and I've been reading her work since the mid-1980s - she's one of the first people to openly and directly address office politics.

Of course, by "politics" we don't (necessarily) mean Republican vs. Democrat*. We mean all those informal rules that you'll never find in the personnel manual or official company policy. Some of these rules, such as "Wait a bit after you get hired before you start taking sides on issues and factions," are pretty much universal. Others, like "The Payroll Manager doesn't really run payroll; the Accounting Manager does" apply to specific firms but not others.

The point here is, we all need to learn the rules that aren't spelled out at least as much as we need to learn the ones that are. Especially - but not only - when unemployment is high and managers have to decide not just "Do I have to fire anybody?" but also sometimes "Which people do I need to let go?"

Laying people off isn't just a matter of having to lose such-and-such number of employees; unless an entire location or company is closing down, it's also a question of whether that number will include Jane Doe, John Smith, Harry Jones or someone else. You may be able to survive a layoff - but not by putting your head in the sand.

And so Ms. Kennedy has helpfully written up eight traits of the perpetually employed - including:

7. They are team players.

Favors are exchanged--everyone owes them and they owe everybody else. One HR manager said that bosses making layoff decisions go first for the loners because getting rid of them does no damage to the body politic. The thinking is "If no one knew she was here, no one will notice when she's gone." Team players who are also mentors are even farther down the layoff list.

[*] Or, say, Conservative vs. Labour for our British readers.

What do you think?

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