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Organizational Politics and Business

Posted On: 2005-08-30
Length: 17:11

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Ok, couple quick housekeeping notes before I begin today's show. First off, yeah, I realize last week's show went like 15 minutes over, I'm sorry. It was late. I had too much coffee. Deal with it. If you're still listening, it can't be that bad. Secondly, on behalf of the entire staff here at the 20-Something Marketing Forum, I want to issue this formal apology to any scientists, foreigners, or republicans who we may have offended in the Dr. Klaus stick of episode #4. Dr. Klaus was having a bad day and is fully aware of our no national politics rule here at the 20-Something Marketing Forum. Also, in an a-hem, unrelated note, I furthermore promise to scale back the silly voices unless absolutely necessary. Lastly, for those of you who are just joining us from iTunes, please disregard all that you've heard and get ready for episode #5, aptly named, Organizational Politics Ago-go.

Rise and shine 20-somethings. It's time for the 20-Something Marketing Forum with your host, Jared Degnan.

Oh yea, welcome to another jacked-up edition of the 20-Something Marketing Forum. I'm Jared Degnan, chief contributor and all-around marketing guru. Thanks as always folks for tuning in. If this is your first time joining us, what took you so long? Naw, I'm kidding. We love you anyway. The point is you're here, which is more than I can say for a lot of the poor mindless masses still wallowing in their own mediocrity. In fact, if you know someone like this, tell them to tune in to the podcast. Just to recap, the 20-Something Marketing Forum is an informative, engaging look at overly ambitious 20-something professionals dealing with the politics and the realities of the modern workplace. As you might have heard, we are back with a vengeance this week. That's right, we've got an iTunes listing, finally, and a new professional sound with real voice overs thanks to Evan Yeoman, and the folks over at 123voice.com. Now I'm not expert at voice overs, but I think Evan's got that I'm-almost-Rod-Roddy from the Price is Right type of voice, so I think it fits perfectly in with the professional, yet irreverent atmosphere we're trying to create. Now if this is indeed your first time in joining us, why you ask, do you need a 20-something professional podcast? Well, the answer is technically, you don't. But then again the way that we see it, life is way too short to be caught up in the sticky residue of mediocrity, so why not create a podcast that speaks to just that.

Today's podcast is sponsored by, oh yeah, here it is. Today's podcast is sponsored by Hurricane Katrina, entertaining bored newscasters since 2005. Yeah, can you believe this crap? I was watching CNN this weekend, and during a live broadcast of the storm, a reporter was showing off the damage to his SUV and was almost hit by a huge piece of scrap metal that literally almost took his head off. This to me sends a loud, clear message. Earth to newscasters. God is speaking to you. Stop reporting and start helping. So on that note, if you're in the areas affected by the storm, and you're still listening to my podcast, first of all, thank you. Second of all, we hope that you're ok and even if you're not in the areas affected by the storm, and you just happen to have some money laying around, please give to the relief efforts, including places like the Red Cross which is at www.redcross.org, Feed the Children, www.feedthechildren.org, or any other reputable relief agency. It's a really great cause, and trust me, you'll be paid back in spades. Even more so, turn off the damn TV and please, please, please, stop encouraging the newscasters.

You're listening to the 20-Something Marketing Forum.

Ok. Sorry about that. Just had to vent on that one. So, today's podcast, and we actually do have a theme for today, is organizational politics. Organizational politics is that nasty little footnote to the 20-something survival guide. One of those little things that you really should know before you accept a position, but just can't figure out how to ask it in an interview. A case in point, many 20-somethings, myself included, got their starts in large corporations that employ a large contingent of wet-behind-the-ears recent college grads. The atmosphere is like a corporate frat house where what parties you go to the previous weekend determine your status just as much as how many leads you generated the week before. These weekends, these situations can be hell if you get in on the wrong side of organizational politics, where being thought of as "uncool" is just about tantamount to blacklisting. In these situations, knowing how to bolster yourself in the corporate political climate is not only prudent, but you're road kill if you don't. Politics plays hardball in these environments where decisions on who to hire just hinge on how much the interviewer likes you. This is not to say that what they're doing is illegal, it's just kind of a fact of life.

To move yourself or any of your ideas up or around, you have to know who to trust and how to maintain your dignity in the process. This, my friends, is the first component of organizational politics. Shareholders. Shareholders hold many different functions. They can be gatekeepers, key decision makers. They can be supervisors deciding who moves up and who doesn't. They can even be coworkers that influence your social standing within the organization, whispering gently into the boss' ear about this or that. To me the latter are just about as dangerous as piranhas in the waters of the Amazon River. They are to me the ultimate scum of the corporate political climate. These are the folks who will sweet talk you to your face and then turn around and stab you in the back with a casual email forwarded on to the boss, or even a well-placed rumor. If you can't tell already, I've had experience. Not only does it screw you over, but it shakes your ambition, destroys your voice, and intimidates you into being just another corporate drone. Let me tell you folks, don't let this happen to you. Don't let inferior minds infringe on your right to be yourself. Now, with that in mind, all shareholders aren't bad. In fact, there are plenty of shareholders who will champion you or your ideas and help them along. The challenge is determining just whose territory you're in, how our idea affects them, and who exactly you can trust. It sucks that it has to be this ruthless, but a good place to start out in any politically charged climate is to acknowledge one paramount rule. Everyone is out for something. The point is that shareholders looking for people to reinforce their needs. And of course when I mention needs, I get, I mean we get to dust off Maslow's hierarchy.

Needs, as Maslow determines them, can be as simple as reinforcing the shareholder's hold on the situation, or even as sinister as basically screwing you over. Just remember, Maslow states that as human beings, needs are presented in a manner of layers, the first being physiological, which is of course food and water. The second being safety, which is just means that you're not going to be killed. Followed by belonging, esteem and self actualization. The ones that want to screw you over, most likely it's because they want to feel better about themselves and their own accomplishments and to reinforce either their own esteem, or to actualize their own potential. That's kind of scary, isn't it? Point is, before your idea lifts off the ground, examine all the layers of the hierarchy and determine if your idea or your change is going to affect the needs of your stakeholder. View the road to your success much as the way a general sees a battlefield. You anticipate where the mine fields are and how best to navigate them, as well as what safe routes exist and how best to take advantage of them. Realizing that this could take you a long time in a larger organization, just keep in mind that this exercise is going to help you understand where your roadblocks are and how to avoid them. You're never going to be able to anticipate every pitfall, but trust me when I tell you that I've learned from experience, that doing this now will save you a lot of pain in the long run.

All right. The second component to office politics is marketing. And I'm completely serious about this. What your message is and how it's going to address the needs of your shareholders is really, really important. Imagine this. If how you're perceived will determine your ability to move your ideas and yourself through an organization, think how a powerful unique message, reaffirmed over time, can help you brand yourself to your shareholders. It's the same principle as national politics. Case in point. George W. Bush was able to redefine his message early on and paint John Kerry with the label of flip-flopper. Kerry couldn't escape this for the rest of the campaign. You can do the same sort of thing, but to yourself, but it's in a positive light. I mention that you yourself have to determine how you navigate politics. The fact is politics are a reality. Doesn't matter what size organization you're in, or if you're in marketing or not. You're going to have to deal with them from time to time. Your message and how you deliver it can be a huge asset in your ability to maintain your dignity throughout the process.

Now, what exactly do we mean by maintaining dignity? We all know the dirty office politics behind the back handshakes, backroom chatter, not to mention backstabbing. If you craft a message that addresses the value in your idea, the merits of your own participation and why ultimately your idea will bolster the shareholder in one way or another, you're not so much playing politics as you are articulating value. You're not using fear as much as you're using positive forward motion. And I can tell you that the less negative energy that you put out there, the less that will come back to bite you in the ass. Now, all of this is of course compared to the sneaky, underhanded tactics that have worked oh so well in the corporate trenches for oh so long.

To me your message, your dealings with co-workers, always have two components. Number one, how will you or your idea directly address the needs of your shareholder? And two, while will they enjoy working with you to accomplish your goal? Example, let's take something from pop culture shall we? Stewie, the loveable, adorable little toddler from The Family Guy wants to take over the world by using a hypno-ray built out of a Teddy Ruxpin. The problem: Stewie needs Brian to buy him a soldering iron to fuse the mechanical toy. I know it's an example, I know it's a stretch. Hang with me here. Stewie of course can't talk to anybody but Brian, and Brian is half stoned most of the time. Then again, this is much like many of my former co-workers. Stewie has to talk Brian into doing something that he wants to do, but Brian is his usual apathetic self, much again like my former co-workers. So, where do we bring this in? Element number one: Stewie explains to Brian that by acquiring the soldering iron he can repair the stereo that Brian smashed while partying and trying to pick up women while he's at the hardware store. That's element number 2. Again, it was a stretch, but it demonstrates how, by moving your agenda forward, while you couch your message in a way that your shareholder lets you know that they want to work with you. Remember that and take it with you. Just keep on guard though. It's great that you want to play clean, but sometimes playing clean is just about as virtuous in telling the truth in an online personal ad. Yeah, it's authentic, but no one wants to date a 28-year-old virgin IT engineer that lives in his parents' basement. The idea is this, as the saying goes, you reap what you sow. Reap a positive message and your idea will go farther. Go negative and expect to battle the negative the entire time.

The following is graphic, clinical material. Use in commentary proving once and for all, reality does indeed bite.

That's right, marketing fans it's time once again to dive into the news. What's in the news this week? First of all, the MTV video music awards when on and shots rang out at a King West party as rap mogul Suge Night was taken to a hospital. His lawyers would not release the details of his condition, but it's not to be expected to be life threatening. It was reported that Paris Hilton was spotted running screaming from the party, apparently not from shots fired, but from the realization that she's not really a celebrity.

In other news, Six Flags is now up for grabs after a hostile take-over attempt by Dan Snyder, who is known locally in Washington DC as the bastard that makes way too much money for too few Redskin wins. Last month, Danny boy attempted to leverage his stake in ESPN Zone and Red Zone Entertainment as well as his partnership with communications and advertising superman and hottie, Mark Shapiro, to buy up Six Flags stock. The Six Flags board countered though, by putting itself up for sale to the highest bidder. The Six Flags ambassador of fun, otherwise known as the dancing Oreck vacuum cleaner guy, was quoted as saying, "the Snyder bust is coming, and everybody is jumping, we may have lost to Disney, but that's no reason for tizzy, the Synder bus is coming, and everybody's jumping, " Oh yeah, groove with me folks.

Ok. Other news. Democrats. Oh the democrats are in the news again. A recent poll taken by Adage.com said that 62% say that the democrat party doesn't year-off advertising to help define itself. In un-related news, Carl Rove has disappeared and Bush is on vacation. No wonder the dems don't need advertising to define themselves. Why participate in the process while you can have the Midwestern mothers do it for you. Get off your asses, democrats. Go and pick a fight.

All right. Nike just announced that it's jumping on the real women ad campaign like we talked about last week, with their new series of ads celebrating six different womanly body parts. The new ads are slated to include headlines such as, and I'm not kidding you, "my butt is big, I have thunder thighs, and my knees are like tomboys" describing the real truth about real women. Nike ad execs remark that they are real excited about these six image series as it plays to woman's needs to be comfortable in her own skin. Apparently the Nike ad execs haven't ever placed an online personal ad. The truth may be in the eye of the beholder, but folks, ugly isn't universal. Seriously, though, kudos to the ad execs at Nike and Dove for their brave portrayal of real women. Now all we need is real men. How about such great copy as,"my spare tire, and I love my back hair." Folks, please employ me. I'm a good copywriter. You can't make this stuff up. Well you can, but it takes a very talented copywriter.

Anyway, lastly, and I do save the best for last, folks. Details Magazine is finally coming out of the closet. Yes! The 17 year-old magazine long teased for being metrosexual before it was cool, finally came out and declared that it's aiming at the gay male population as a major demographic. The September edition that just hit newsstands proudly declares, "We don't care if you think we're gay." And it's a clear sign to its gay male population that is now 1/3 or its readership, "we want your money." Now that it's really turning a profit. Conde Nast magazine who consequently owns Details, is currently gearing up it's launch of the men's vogue magazine, the male urban equivalent of its dowdy older sister. You know folks, I love news like this because it allows me to rant and do the things that I do, like go nuts, that you guys love to hear me do. Gay men right now seem to be the cash cows of the fashion industry. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the new lines of men's products. Gay is the new gold. What can we say? Personally, I don't like this. One, because it makes it harder to tell who is gay and who is metrosexual; secondly, because we're not all drop-dead gorgeous fashion eastas. Gaydar as you might now, is a gay man's version of radar detector. And metrosexuality just completely throws my gaydar off, which is not that good to begin with. For those of you who don't know a whole heck of a lot about gaydar, too strong a beep and it's time to slow down and check out the cop as he checks you out, too frequent a beep and it's time for you to throw the damn thing out and give up. Either way, if you view us as a commodity, advertisers, where's my share of the money?

And once again, marketing fans, we come to the game plan. A recap of the show and tactics you can take with you to help survive the 20-something workplace. I think it goes without saying that organizational politics isn't fun. It's disturbing, it's annoying and it only serves to promote the lesser part of our natures. So do yourself a favor, and when you're deciding how you're going to address your shareholders, and what message you're going to craft, do what Mike Aberschoff in his book, "It's Your Ship-Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy." Mike advocates that when you're dealing with organizational politics, you apply what's called the Washington Post test. Very simply take your actions and decide if you'd want to see them on the front page of the Washington Post, or any other major newspaper. Also remember that all actions have consequences. And though that revenge in the form of organizational politics sounds tempting, it's much like a boomerang, because it's going to come back and hit you in the ass. The fact of the matter is, folks, that there is such a thing called karma. And the more good vibes you put out there, the more you're going to get back. So that's our show for today. I want to thank every one of you for turning in. I encourage you to tell your friends about the 20-Something Marketing Forum, we're on every single week, usually posting on Thursdays, but sometimes you get a special like today and you get it posted early. Anyway, if you have any comments or questions, or you have any other experiences we'd love to hear from you. jsdwdc@yahoo.com, or on the web at http://marketforum.blogspot.com. Thank you so much folks, and we will catch you on the flip side.

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