Ah, company politics. They can be anything from mildly amusing to wrenchingly painful. In any case, they are at a minimum something you shake your head at. Unfortunately there are politics of some form in every work place and it really depends on the people involved as to how bad the politics can be.
The following story is one of company politics that to this day I still shake my head and laugh at. However at the time I admit I was pretty pissed off about it. It is a true story – one that I went through myself about a dozen years ago. The names of people in the company of all been changed to protect the innocent or feeble.
I was working in internal IT for a software company supporting the software and hardware for its public Web site and Intranet. Along came a major project where the company was going to implement PeopleSoft, an enterprise resource management or ERM system. As a result, everyone in IT was supposed to be working on the PeopleSoft project and not on anything else, including the work I was doing on our Web site and Intranet. Of course reality is always something different, as there was nobody else to technically support either of those projects, and I continued to support both.
One day I got a call about a major project the company was undertaking. It was going to go through a significant rebranding effort, keeping the same logo but rebranding all products and services including a new Web site. Although we had plenty of technical people in the company, I was the person to work on the new Web site as I knew it best, from the marketing team to the infrastructure to code behind it. The call had come from the marketing manager whom I had worked with since I've been there supporting the Web site. I then told her what the new “situation” was in IT, where I was not supposed to be supporting the current Web site, let alone build a new one. Needless to say this didn't make any sense to her, but she understood well how the company politics was, especially in IT.
Next up for her was to raise the “situation” up through her management, which then brought it up to the IT management and then came back down to me. I got a call from my manager who told me that after all I was supposed to work on the new Web site. But there was only one stipulation: I wasn't politically supposed to be working on this project therefore I wasn't supposed to tell anyone about it. So technically I was wasn’t working on the project, even though it was going to take most all of my time for the next several months.
Makes perfect sense right? I didn't think so.
Despite the insanity of the “situation” I had a job to do. A lot of work went into building the Web site, but it was something enjoyed doing very much and it didn't seem like a job at all. I was working very closely with our marketing manager, where I was located in Boston and she was in Vermont. Throughout the entire project we never actually saw each other, but despite that we were extremely successful at what we built.
In addition to building the Web site, I was also responsible for registering and acquiring new domain names for our rebranded products and services. As this was a publicly traded company, the rebranding was very secretive and very few people knew what the new product names were to be. But I was one of them. So that's a lot of faith and confidence in the guy that's not officially working on the project.
Overall the project was a success and we launched the new Web site on the day the company launched the rebranding. A lot of hard work and long hours went into it, and where we were very relieved when it was over, there was a lot of pride in the work we did. About a week after the rebranding, an email came out from the president of the company thanking individually all the people who worked on the rebranding. That is, all except for me. Of course this made complete sense because the president wasn't told I worked on the project because for political reasons I wasn't working on the project as nobody from IT was supposed to be working on anything else but the PeopleSoft project.
No sooner did the email come out from the president, I got a call from the marketing manager who was completely shocked that I was left off the list. I have to admit I was slightly irate I didn't get official recognition, but I knew the “situation” and took it for what it was. At least my immediate colleagues knew I worked on the project and I got kudos from them. Where I did not get credit from the president, I knew what I did and was just as proud as I was before the email came out.
Several weeks later we had an all-hands meeting for the IT organization. As I wasn't really in the mood for going to listen to this meeting in person, I decided just to dial into it from my desk. At the conclusion of the meeting the chief information officer, or CIO, brought up the rebranding project and even singled me out for the work that I did on it. What? Public recognition from the guy who had decided I technically didn't work on the project and made sure that I didn't get credit for it from the president of the company? Needless to say I was mildly irate and may have even made a gesture at the phone as I was listening to this. Interestingly, the CIO himself never personally thanked me for the work that I did on the Web site, and knowing how he operated even his public acknowledgment was very halfhearted.
It's one thing going into a consulting project or a contract knowing that for proprietary reasons you can't reference you worked on a project. When it comes to political reasons for not working on a project, they typically make absolutely no sense and are more to cover for someone than anything else. This was the case here, in a company with plenty of resources and a “leader” who would not acknowledge a significant company effort in order to keep to his marching orders that all-hands would be working on the ERM initiative. Of course by that statement alone there is no leadership shown.
Have you ever been in a similar situation? How would you have reacted if it was you? I welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
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