Thursday, March 23, 2006

Office politics resembles the playground

Dropping my son off to nursery yesterday, I saw children getting down to business in the playground. Aside from the actual work roles, it struck me how similar the characters from a child’s playground are perhaps now to be found in the average workplace. Machiavellian attitude seems to exist at a very young age.

You have the Leader; serious demeanour, aged slightly older and therefore slightly more experience. They assume the position, because of self belief.

Then you have the Perceived Leader (not always the same individual); the person with the better ideas, and more friends. Their friends feel that this individual, with their informal power, should challenge the Leader, however due to limited self belief, these people are not ready for the challenge.

There is the Bully; male or female, who rally their troops each week with a new target to pull to pieces. These people leave little paths of destruction. They know the ropes, having been in the environment for longer than most and they are pretty happy about staying in this position. And yet when their authority of power is questioned, they crumble pretty quickly.

I saw a Joker in the playground; I know these exist in most workplace as I feel that a portion of this individual is me. They are the comedian, the fool, the arse. In the playground they make up songs, jokes, games. In the workplace, they leave notes to call My Lyon on other peoples’ desks, and when the individual calls back, they find it is London Zoo. Perhaps lacking in size, or positional power, they make up with wit and are therefore continuously running into the Bully.

What about the Subservient?; They are eager to please everyone, usually to the detriment of themselves. Their beautifully packed lunch, or in the office their home-made cake and due diligence report are everyone’s property.

The Groupie; these are the support networks around the Leader, the Perceived Leader and the Bully. These are the hyenas of the playground or the office, with little grey matter amongst the lot of them. What they do have is killer instinct, a trait left over from the dinosaur or raptor era, a hunter mentality.

The Organiser; invaluable in any environment, these individuals are the doers rather than talkers.

The Stylist; they are the fashion police. First to the playground with proudly worn knee-high socks or the new hairstyle, or even one of their older brother’s cigarettes, the ability to pick up a trend first has stayed with them. These days they are involved with sponsoring World Vision or green flares.

And finally, the Moaner; intelligent but fearful of change, they have been there forever and resentful about the people, not the situation.

It would seem that apart from growing in size, leopards do not change their spots and the concept of management is the ability to handle a three year olds’ temper tantrum. I would love to get your feedback on which of these you have at your work - I am sure there are more to add!