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Profitable Politicking
A Five minute primer for the upwardly mobile

Being up the totem pole presupposes having people below you, but how do you get people? You go about it backwards. First you commandeer more floor space (sometimes called roof line) then move in more people (sometimes called players) to fill it up. One way to do this is the tried and true cabinet caper. If you try to immediately move in three desks, two computers and a bookcase, whomever you're stealing space from is going to put up a fight. So you have to find a space that has just a little room and take it over, say with a cabinet. Who's going to complain about that?
The key to success with the cabinet caper is patience. If you've done it right, the other guy will have no choice but to give up the area.
"Listen, all I want to do is move your partition over five little inches so I can move a cabinet in."
"What if I need the room?"
"Five inches? All right, forget it. If you don't care enough about the company to give up five precious inches."
"Now, I didn't say . . ."
"No, no. I'll just put it on the back dock. It's so cold, I hate to send poor Clyde out to get parts. He never did get his strength back after those cancer treatments. He's a team player, though, I can count on him. I just hope we can live with losing 25% of our parts to the humidity."
When the proprietor of the space finishes drying his eyes, he'll probably loan you his new pickup to go get the cabinet.
Once you've moved in your cabinet, you'll need the room to open the doors and the room that gives you free access to your cabinet. After you spend enough time in the other fellow's workspace, it's yours. Then, it's a natural enough thing when you decide to rearrange the things in your own area. Now you can create jobs and you've got people under you. After awhile, you put people under them and, bingo! You're a manager.
The cabinet caper is an example of the type of power you can wield if you understand how to politic. The myriad of ideas about how to get ahead in the dog-eat-dog world of corporate politics all seem to lack a common axiomatic base indigenous to true scientific endeavors. The purpose of this treatise is to introduce some order into the confusion and show that politicking skills can be learned; they no longer have to be a mystical part of a black art practiced by those exalted few with the special gift.
Intense research has yielded the information that the effective "power" in corporate politics is credibility. This power is analogous to voltage potential in that what's important in getting things done is the differential. That is, to exercise power over someone in the corporate world, you must have more credibility than he does. This, of course, can be done by enhancing your credibility or by undermining his. If he is your subordinate (or report, if you prefer a less auspicious term for a mere underling) undermining is not so difficult, as you already have the edge. People assume that because you're the boss, you are naturally more competent, industrious, and beloved by deity and all applicable government agencies than the people that work for you.
In other cases, you may have to actively engage in undermining someone's corporate credibility potential (CCP). The technique is fairly easy if you just understand who the enemy's allies are not. If you cast dispersions to someone your report doesn't have an alliance with, it can concern something fairly innocuous and, for lack of a better suspect, the person will place the blame on the object of your attack just to get the heat off himself. You can get to the point that your superior CCP will allow you to say anything about your victim without any shred of basis in fact and it will be accepted as fact. No one will even bother to ask the attackee if there's any truth to the allegation. The person, unaware that he's been attacked, won't refute, thereby giving credence to your accusation. "Well, if it weren't true, surely he'd have denied it." That's the power of CCP. Once you've built up enough credibility, what you say doesn't even have to be credible.
Reinforce the gap from time to time by mentioning little things you may notice. "Did you see the way he was looking at that girl?" or "Was he making personal copies on the company copier? I don't know, I'm concerned about his morals." ("Concerned" is a good politicking word which means "you may think the guy's a waste of skin but I'm Christian enough that I'm bothered about the welfare of his soul.")
If your credibility reservoir is not sufficient to cause the potential drop you need, you may be able to tap into someone else's. Thinking of power as a credibility reservoir makes it easier to understand the importance of allies in the workplace. Think of allies as expanding your total effective credibility potential (TECP). By the same token, you want to make sure not to associate with people with low credibility. One way to increase your CCP with someone you want to add to your reservoir, is by finding a common object of scorn. This is called the 'Hitler hustle.' Cultivate allies by deriding their enemies to them. In this manner, they assume you fit the mold of man they like. It also helps to try to squeeze yourself into that mold. If Bob the Boss is a religious man, for example, it can't hurt for you to teach a Sunday School class. If he's a family man, you'd do well to have a wife yourself.
Let's say Joe P. Bleaux works in the plant somewhere. You may hardly know him, but if Mr. Bleaux is dating your sister-in-law, it's a cinch that she told him about finding your Oldsmobuick parked in front of the Love Nest Motel while you were supposed to be in LA on a business trip. Now, that may be a problem if your boss is of the opinion that extra-marital bliss is not an exercise worthy of a member of his kingdom. Naturally, you'd feel a lot better if Joe were gone, but it may be more helpful to seriously undermine his CCP. Then, anything derogatory he says will serve to enhance your position in the eyes of your boss. This is called the "martyr gambit." If you use it wisely, Joe Bleaux would get more public support for drowning baby kitty cats than for attacking such a virtuous individual as yourself.
But Mr. Bleaux's not even in your area. Don't fall prey to this downfall common to the bourgeois corporate politician. Any area in which you can exercise CCP control is your area. One effective method of breaking into an area where you don't belong is to say that a person is "guarding his sandbox." This gives people the impression that the person to whom you are referring is insecure in his abilities and afraid that someone more competent than him might easily gain control of his area.
You must be cautious of how you manage your own sandbox, however, as people may find out your job's not justified. If someone accuses you of "sandbox guarding," your superior CCP will allow you to tell people that the fellow is slinging "petty accusations."
An effective method of maintaining control over your sandbox is through the acquisition of gadgets. Everyone knows that if you carry a pager you must be absolutely indispensable to the company. It is imperative that you have the best computers and the most expensive software and at least one of the latest release multi-function feature phones. Buy the most expensive button-riddled scientific calculator on the market, even if the concept of exponents still eludes you. The higher the total sum of transistors and buttons in your domain, the more important you are. A cellular telephone practically overflows your CCP reservoir. Your importance to the company is judged by the portion of its budget that goes to your department. For this reason, you should spend as much time on an airliner as is possible without actually being a pilot for Delta.
Be constantly wary, as someone else may be trying to get equipment for their area. They may go so far as to try to buy books about how to better do their jobs or attend a business seminar themselves. Be quick to point out how 'concerned' you are about the effect those expenditures may have on the profitability of the company.
Always follow the vogue in management trends and keep up on all the latest buzzwords and time-management devices. The gadget game must be played high profile to be effective. Lock up everything then make a big show of all the keys you have which give you access to places the proletariate will never see. It's never hurts to use the modesty maneuver. "This pager is really a pain. I really wish I didn't have to carry it." (But don't let that stop you from setting it off in the middle of church so all your neighbors know how important you are). The modesty maneuver is readily applied to other situations as well. For example, "I just have too much to do to fly to Houston. I really wish that someone else could go in my place." (Of course, you're the only one qualified to carry out the very sensitive mission).
As a manager, your reports will often come to you with their ideas. Resist the temptation to implement those ideas right away. Tell the well-meaning busybody that you appreciate their work and concern but that your best judgement is that now-just-isn't-the-right-time/we-just-don't- have-the-budget. After a couple of months, implement the ideas as your brainchild and you can practically hear CCP running into your reservoir.
Another important thing to remember concerns writing memos. Keep in mind that the person you're writing to is not the person you're writing for. The memo's real purpose is to show your boss that you're not letting those peons that work for you get away with all the devious schemes they have concocted to undermine your noble task. Let's say you send your worker a seething memo telling him you're bristling mad about a project that was supposed to be done last week, and that if he can't handle his responsibilities you'll find someone that can. You must cc the memo to your boss. Your job is done. Your boss knows you're on top of the situation and if the project isn't done on time, it's not your fault, by golly, it's that worthless worker of yours.
At this point you may be asking yourself, "What if this department I've created and my inflated salary eat away at the company so much that it has to close its doors and I've kingdom-built myself right out of a job?" Don't flatter yourself. There are only a gifted few of talent sufficient to build a department parasitic enough to consume its own host. If you are one of these, there will always be room for you in the management of another company when you're through fleecing your current employer.

Frank Leany

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