Job Politics

People complain about the politics at work: among teachers, in the YMCA, between Emily and her boss. I’ve decided the only way to properly complain about work politics is to insist that the politics are foul, not to bewail the fact that working includes politics. I entered the work force with an expectation for it to be something like school: set tasks and set ways to evaluate people’s performance. Of course teachers didn’t always like me, but there was a semblance of impartiality, grade-wise, throughout.

Emily isn’t great pals with her boss which has given rise to 40-hour graveyard shifts five weeks in a row. All requests to switch ignored.

The new girl at my work told me today that she quit her last job because “it was a popularity contest.”

Unless the job is one that requires a high degree of specialty or skill, and one in which a worker’s ability can be openly tested, (e.g. computer hacker, heart surgeon) there will be nothing stopping the pet favorite of the boss from getting a promotion or recognition or better shifts than someone more competent but less well-liked.

But complaining that these popularity contests exist is like complaining that there is traffic or a line at the grocery store or people living in the apartment upstairs (and banging around like crazy on a Saturday morning, I might add). Essentially that there are other people in existence and more specifically that in daily life we more often deal with people than with things or ideas.

Society is not made up of laws that shan’t be broken, mechanisms, or large inert structures. It is made up entirely of people—people behind every rule and interpreting every rule—and working with those people is largely the stuff of working at anything.

Still they suck. Rumors, caddishness, suck-up-etry, and all other manner of back-biting or falseness come in the door wages foolishly cracked open. But I’ll tell you the best strategy I’ve heard for dealing with it:

When I asked Carrie if the politics between the staff at the school where she’s student teaching were bad, she answered me, “Sure. But I don’t know much about them—I eat lunch with the bilinguals.”

Wise words, mes amis.

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