Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Office Politics - You Thought High School Was Over?!

I remember a year ago I was at the height of one of the biggest dilemmas of my life: to take a year off after graduation or to stay an extra year of undergrad and extend my major to a specialist. After (an insane amount of) deliberation, I decided to graduate on time last June and ventured uncertainly into a year in The Real World. I was off to work for a whole year before grad school and law school, and I was terrified!! The sinking-not-sure-what-you're-going-to-do-with-your-life feeling was something new to me.

Months later, in retrospect, I am so so glad I took a year off to experience an actual full-time job. There are some things you learn in the working world that you just can't learn in school. Out of all the experiences I've had this year, there's one aspect of The Working World that I'm glad I got to witness: the phenomenon of Office Politics.

I'm so fascinated by some of the things I've witnessed this year: the backroom deals, the brownosing, the firing, the insane obsession over money, the politically charged relationships, the power-play, the constant need to make the company look good, the pushing and shoving to get on the boss' good side, the list goes on!!

Despite the suits, designer bags, fancy language and veneer of professionalism, The Working World is still full of petty high school teenagers vying for popularity, for status, for power. A 58 year old woman can be just as exasperating as the girl who sat next to you in English class pretending to be your friend so she could copy your notes.

As with many things in life, things function around age and seniority. And due to my status as the youngest employee in the company, I wasn't seen as a "threat" to the internal power struggles. To them, I'm still a kid. I therefore got to sit back and watch the grown-ups provide me with some awesome entertainment....

I've watched men and women over the age of 50 spread petty gossip a la Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls (I shamelessly love this movie lol). I've watched middle-aged grown-ups tattle on other co-workers. I've learned that women over the age of 50 are still capable of trash-talking former bosses in order to get on the new boss' good side. I've witnessed petty tugs of war between highly respected managers over seniority status. But most importantly, I've learned that money is the sole driving force behind everyone's actions. The need & greed for money can drive even the most skilled, most recognized provincial politicians to succumb to petty high school tactics.

Despite their 6 figure salaries, their age, and act of professionalism, some grown-ups have never really... grown up. The way you handle these people is the most important lesson you can learn.

Stay out of the drama, friends. There's nothing more stressful than getting caught in the middle of an office power struggle. Avoid choosing sides. We're talking real life here. You risk more when you choose one side over the other. We can't all have Lindsay Lohan's Mean Girls ending--high school isn't a fairy tale, neither is real life.

Despite the most outrageous (albeit entertaining) incidents I've witnessed this year, I'm still thankful to have had this experience. I've met the most awesome, understanding boss who has taught me more about Real Life than she will ever know. And once you learn these lessons... you'll take them with you to the next chapter of your life, just like I will with mine.

"For the rest of my life, whenever the sky is grey, I'll remember that the blue's still there above the clouds and the sun's still shining." - Pauline Fisk

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