Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Office Politics

This is the biggest company I've ever worked for. It's actually the first actual private company I've worked for in a decade - a sudden change from the nonprofit world. This is a real company with dozens and dozens of employees.

I'm used to small shops. In the past, I've been the one-person development team. I would write the fundraising appeal, walk it down to the printer, pick up the copies when they were done, print the mailing labels, fold and stuff the envelopes, take them to the post office, and enter the checks when they started rolling in. Here, I've got departments. There's a marketing department, a sales department, an IT department, an executive team, an events team, teams of people who do what I used to do by myself.

It's weird, people.

You would think it would be a relief to have a team of people to rely on, but it's the opposite. I'm not used to having other people taking on tasks. When I'm sending out a marketing email blast, I have four different people from three different teams that have to sign off on it. That's odd - I'm used to just writing the thing myself and sending it.

And then there's the office politics. When you work in a small office, everyone has to get along. You might have petty grievances, but everyone has to get along and fundamentally like each other - otherwise, you're doomed. Not the case at a big company. People have to work together, but they do not have to like each other.

So my team, the marketing team, is not thought of highly in the office. It's our job to protect the brand. We approve any writing that goes out from our company, and in my case, we monitor online discussions to see what people are saying about us. Everyone else in the office thinks they have better ideas than the marketing team, but it's not their job to come up with the ideas to raise our brand's profile and build new customers. It's our job. They can throw out ideas, but it's ultimately our job. So they resent us.

The IT team is generally seen as a bunch of know-it-alls who are notoriously dismissive of most new ideas for technology. So most people hate the IT team. They work with them, but people talk shit about the IT director behind his back.

It goes on like this. IT doesn't particularly like us, we're not particularly fond of the new products team even though we have to sell what they're creating. The events team gets a lot of flak. And the sales - yeesh. Everyone resents the sales team. Everyone thinks they can do a better job than the sales team. Everyone thinks the entire sales team should be gutted and replaced. (And I mean gutted literally. Think Wolverine.)

But at our best, we lay down the swords and work well together. I just had a meeting last week - the IT, marketing and sales teams were all in the same room together. And we were bonding well. We laughed at each other's jokes. We enthused over each other's ideas. It happens. At the best of times, we appreciate each other's ideas and we genuinely like working with the other teams.

But at the worst ... well, I've used the term "trench warfare" more than once.

I like it better when we get along. I love the people we work with, on all sides. I am always impressed by the dedication and passion of my co-workers. But the trench warfare gets to me sometimes. I start getting into the backbiting, the closed-door smack talking, the petty grievances. Anger is addictive. It's fun, to be perfectly honest. In a childish sort of way, it's fun to compile a list of the things you hate about your co-workers. But it's not healthy, and it's no way to run a company.

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