“Understanding power equations”- 29 September 2015.

When Aditi joined her first job in a company she was full of enthusiasm. Having done her post graduate degree in management she was raring to go. She had a few years of teaching experience but was keen to work in industry. She was given an administrators job and had to overlook the functioning of the organisation in many departments. The departments of marketing, store, purchase and supplies were entrusted to her. She decided to give her best and work with sincerity and honesty for the benefit of the company. As she started noting discrepancies in purchase and supplies she made notes and passed it on to higher ups. She noticed discrepancies in bills too and requested seniors to stop payments till accounts were cleared. She did little know that she was treading on many people’s toes with vested interests. She thought she was saving money for the company by setting right the accounts! That is when the trouble started for her. The vested interests with powerful connections within the huge company began complaining and spreading rumours about her work performance and about her intentions. Slowly without her knowledge she was being maligned behind her back. She was terminated one fine day by the President without giving her a fair hearing or time to protect herself. In her goodness she lost her prime job which she had joined with pride. What went wrong?

She realised too late that it was not enough to just have good intentions. It was not enough to have a good degree from a good university. It was not enough to be a hard and dedicated worker. It was not enough to be loyal and true to the goals of the institution. Although all this was vital it does not guarantee effectiveness and success on the job. What was equally important was to understand deeply the people working in the company and build relationships in a way to know their strengths and weaknesses. It was very important to understand the power equations between people and their interests. It was important to identify the political people and their groups and handle them smartly. But it was too late. She had lost the prime job and there was no going back. Why did they not teach this in business schools she thought sadly?

Take another example. Ronit was very comfortable with his boss for they shared a wonderful rapport and shared many common values and thoughts. He enjoyed working in the company and was having thoughts of never leaving it and retiring there. He was at a senior position and his colleagues envied his blue boy status. They became almost like personal friends besides being colleagues. However all this changed when a new boss arrived and the older was shifted off to a different branch of the company in another country. Nothing seemed to be going right with his new boss and him. He had a different style of working, different value systems and perhaps a plan in mind which he was secretive about. Ronit developed negative feelings for his new boss and conveyed it to his colleagues. He started talking against him in small measures and later did nothing to hide his feelings about the new guy. The news ultimately went to the ears of the boss. On second thoughts, Ronit tried changing gears and adjusting to the situation in small ways which did not seem to be working for him. He had not foreseen such a situation in his life. He was feeling depressed and started having thoughts about quitting the company. Working in the atmosphere was no longer a pleasure, as it became a pain. His performance was constant but his satisfaction was not. Nobody likes a disgruntled colleague and one day he was asked to put in his papers. He knew it in his gut that something was coming but that it would happen so soon was a shock.

People must realise that the chair or the position is more important than the person behind. In professionally managed companies the person may change but the position does not. The chair is powerful and whether you like the person behind it or not is not important at all. You would need to develop cordial and respectful relations with the guy irrespective of your personal preferences and your likes and dislikes. There is a lot of power play in organisations and to be successful you have to understand that factor and play along. Ignoring it out of innocence actually becomes your stupidity. Many times power lies outside the chair with people who play behind the scenes. This also has to be understood. Finding one’s way through all this power maze is no mean task. But perhaps there lies the secret of success. Treading your own path without trampling on the toes of the powerful is a fine act of balancing which is taught by experience and life alone!


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