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Why "politics" will be the death of Corporate America

I started my career in consulting and saw rapid growth in my career while working with some really bright individuals (shout out to you Tarush Makhariya) what i observed there was organizations like EY are filled with really bright individuals, young guns willing to go the distance, grinding hours and finding really interesting methods of helping clients achieve success. But for every bright kid there was a grumpy manager willing to hamper their growth and give their 2 cents to "cut the tall poppy". Their feedback was really interesting as well, "can you make the slide prettier", "can you make the text smaller", "can we focus on X", "can we not show Y".

Now you might be thinking i don't respect experience, but hold on i'm no narcissist know it all, i'm only trying to show you the value of middle management which is sad but true (Logic and emotions can never exist in the same room), Mind you these changes were so critical that they had to be rushed and required burining the midnight oil. Once these changes were implemented the manager would swoop in and act like he was the MVP of the season. I still laugh at those poor kids grinding away hours in unpaid-overtime, wasting their health away for their corporate overlords not giving a moment to themselves. As Dolly Parton says "You're just a step on the boss man's ladder"

I have seen people take credit from others and made a promise to myself that i would never ever let this happen. Give credit where it's due guys not only to the bottom but always to the top as well. That's the key to retaining top talent. Petty leaders are willing to throw really talented staff and replace them when they don't align with their vision. They don't understand that in an indusry like SaaS a lot of time and effort goes into training them - hours invested by the dev team, the QA team all significantly impacting the velocity directly and indirectly. Lost opportunities due to untrained staff do more harm than good, throwing money at something does not solve the problem, it's a cope.

What happens when you outshine the master?

As you progress in your career, especially if you have a growth mindset you are certainly going to lock horns with the leadership. I started searching a lot of books around navigating office politics and my goodreads "read" collection kept going up and up. But i could never find something on this topic, I couldn't even make sense of the learnings, someone suggested me to read 50 Laws of Power by Robert Greene which was nothing but stripped out lessons from "The prince", by Niccolo Machiavelli. The first lesson in that book is "Never outshine the master", and it hit me like a slap across my face ..... oh boy what did i do. I started eating myself up slowly and thought that the end was pretty much near. But i have an alternate take on this - how can creativity thrive when your ideas are limited to that of your master ?

Poor is the pupil who does not outshine the master - Leonardo Da Vinci

How can Corportate America thrive if we keep playing these Machiavelli games ? When will we step up, appreciate talent and give them their dues ? These talented people are the ones that usually rage quit and create cheaper version of the products and end up stealing away the marketplace - or just join a competitor and do the same thing all over again. So what happens when you do outshine the master ?

Enter Workplace Mobbing

Harvard business review wrote this brilliant article on "How Bullying Manifests in the workplace" and it looks something like this -

  • Spreading rumours

  • Distracting you from your goals so that they can catch you when you fail

  • Passive agressiveness

  • Gaslighting

  • Delaying projects and decisions

  • Ganging up against your ideas

Well what you did expect padawan, all glory and gifts ? You think you are Caesar returning from the conquest of Gaul ? You shaked up decades worth of career progressions and old paradigms. Something is expected ; the cause - effect relationship is always true.

Utopia or pipe dream ?

Now i have read my fair share of Aldous Huxley, Ayn Rand, Kurt Vonnegut and Plato ; what i learnt was that yes utopias might be far fetched but there is a middle ground.The place where dreamers and realists meet - a thriving ground for tangible creativity. I really don't buy this bullshit that Politics are everywhere as leaders it is our job to ensure there is a workplace free of office politics. I got a lot of advice that it's time to quit and move on - but how could i move on knowing really well i will face the same demons in the next organization?

I have never faced politics while working with founder led organizations, it's always when incompetent leaders step into the picture that you are faced with a barrage of shitty work environments. While working with GoFloaters (shout out to you Shyam and Srivatsan) we were priorotizing things that really impacted the company, which meant building stuff that matters ; not to please the popular kids in the company. And it's not like all CEOs are the same way, one of my group CEOs Alyza Tarmohamed has this statement "Always work with people smarter than you at every stage of your career". Sometimes i think high school never ended for some of us, but for the rest i'll leave you with this quote by Salvador Dali -

The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of malcontents

If you are facing hate, mobbing and ganging up - it means that you are on the right path, if there's anything that i have learned from video games is that if you encounter enemies you are moving in the right direction. Bash on regardless !

One last piece of advice - watch out for your Brutus, if one person is being nice to you while other's aren't you dont want to repeat an "Et, tu" situation - these games are really deep and long played. I still can't get over how much people spend their energy into all this, maybe that's why they are not creative - negative energy always finds its way to failure.


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