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Office politics…the players and the pawns

Over the last three years, Australia has managed to have 4 different Prime Ministers. This is not going to be a rant about how we seem to have an addiction to #spills [seriously though why are they called spills? Every time it happens I keep thinking of a large mug full of politicians spilling out and all these men in blue suits and light blue ties spilling out onto the lawns of Canberra]. Anyway no this is not a rant about the number of spills we have in parliament…no rather this is rant about how this behaviour by our nation’s leaders has spilt [yeah like what I’ve done here] into the workplace. Now a few years (and already 3 jobs) into my career, I’m starting to notice that much like our nation’s capital, corporate offices are riddled with the same backstabbing bull shit and Machiavellian characters that you would find scheming in the corridors of parliament. Now as I am one for useless comparisons, I couldn’t stop thinking about how similar politics and workplaces are. Scheming, undermining and forever having not-so-secret conversations in transparent, glass meeting rooms, all with the same aim of gathering more power. [Additionally it should be noted that the recent change in government from Abbott to Turnbull, this means that my ability to make T-dawg related jokes has been significantly diminished (yes my Tony-Abbott-joke ability is clearly the most significant impact of Turnbull’s rise to power)…hence I must get them all out of the way now]

Bronny Bishop, the Queen of Expense Claims

Oh good ol’ Brony. For those less aware of the Australian political climate, Bronwyn Bishop is the Queen of Expense Claims (a mighty queen indeed). Her efforts have included claiming a helicopter she took for an 80km trip and spending roughly the amount of what my superannuation will be after 60 years of work on a 2 week trip to Europe. I believe the worst part of all of this is that she got caught only after a bajillion years in parliament…so if you’re really looking to fix the deficit, forget taxing tech corporates and freaking just reign in the Bish!

In the context of a workplace, it would be too easy to just lump this on that person who’s the most liberal with their corporate card because they’re usually the first to put their card down at the bar at any corporate event….no that person should be celebrated and possibly knighted. No the Bronny Bishop is actually someone who has all the ability to spend an incredible amount on useless things but is able to because they’re in with the boss. Yep it’s the MD’s Executive Assistant. They are The Speaker – that position means they think they’re really important because they control the MD’s diary, but in essence no one really knows how making calendar invites in Outlook and refusing the answer the phone after 3pm because it’s “expenses time and that’s really stressful”, actually became a full time job. Somehow senior EAs of corporate Australia are able to wrap you on the wrist for using company money to buy a $1.10 goodbye card for a co-worker who’s leaving after 23 years of  service, and yet when they manage to spend your entire salary on cupcakes, it goes unnoticed.

Jackie Lambie, the Nation’s Voice

She’s the scarf obsessed, self-appointed Voice of the Nation…however in reality she’s probably only the “voice of the nation” because she manages to have the loudest voice in the nation on the most inane, hyperbolic topics, drowning out the rest of us.  If there’s something controversial to be said, you can be guaranteed that Jackie Lambie will be saying it.

Chances are you already know exactly who I’m talking about in your office. If you don’t know who this person is in your office, then I guarantee YOU ARE THIS PERSON and you just don’t know because your voice is too loud to allow your brain to think. Important to note that the Jackie Lambie, is never ill-meaning and often what they say is pretty funny and it’s a refreshing voice in the office…however ‘refreshing’ can quickly turn to downright annoying when you have to listen to an abnormally loud voice every. single. day.

Clive Palmer/Mark Latham, the Loony Oracle

It may be controversial to have the names Clive Palmer and Mark Latham along with ‘oracle’ in the same sentence, however hear me out. Palmer and Latham have both voiced some pretty interesting ideas for the nation and the fact is, compared to some of the power-hungry zealots in Canberra, at least talking about the nation’s economic prosperity. I only wish they’d only talk about the nation’s economic prosperity instead of doing it whilst riding a dinosaur or making derogatory comments aimed at half the population.

At work, this person is an innovative genius….if only they could keep all their shit together and actually remember where they leave their gems of genius to follow up on and execute. They’re the person who shoulda coulda woulda been leader, were it not for their inability to work the office political game. Instead they’re penalised, chastised and ostracised for being their normal, weird, Titanic-building, women-hating selves.

Philip Ruddock, the Old Guy

There were a good few years where Philip Ruddock was front and centre of Australia’s foreign policy. Then there was a government change, John Howard was voted out and seemingly all of his ministry seemed to disappear into oblivion [where “oblivion” actually refers to some random directorship roles on company boards where they deliver no added value because they have no corporate background and instead just sit there, collect their $250,000 a year payment and live on their comfy parliamentary pension]. Anyway amidst the clouds rising, 8 years after Howard was given the boot, I just found out that Ruddock continues to exist in parliament. Who’d have thunk that!? It would be too easy to liken him to a cockroach surviving a nuclear explosion but oh wait…I think I just did.

Every office has one of these guys though. They’re the old guy who you know is really senior…but apart from that you don’t really know what he does. He rocks up, doesn’t really speak to anyone because he hasn’t really conversed with a ‘real Asian’ before and instead makes the occasional remark to the MD about some random deal they did together in the 1980s, of which both companies have subsequently gone into administration. Time to move on kind sir, stop collecting your cheques, retire to your Point Piper mansion and widen our bonus pool.

Greg Combet, the Leader We Had To Have…But Didn’t

For those of you who know me well, you’ll know I have a wee, little crush on Greg Combet. [And when I say “wee, little crush” I mean that if I was at my own wedding, about to say “I do” and Greg Combet walked in looking for another room, I’d stop all proceedings and giggle like a schoolgirl until he was gone]. Anyway background on Greg Combet is that he’s the former union leader who understood business. He was a problem fixer and an idealist. [yes now I’m letting my rose coloured glasses speak about the man who could do no wrong].

This is the idealist who genuinely believes in the product of the company. They love it and came to the company to actually help it grow and make an impact. Best part is that they actually do that. Everything they do is actually beneficial to the company, and they do it expecting no reward or no adulation. That’s also why after 18 years of delivering incredible projects to the company and possibly being personally responsible for building multiple business units from the ground up, they have been awarded with absolutely nothing. They didn’t play the game and were too idealistic, too good at their own job. So they’re stuck delivering and making others look better.

Josh Frydenburg, Who the Fuck Is That Guy Standing Behind The PM?

Josh Frydenburg’s CV reads like Aaron Sorkin, the writer of The West Wing, had written it for him, to position him as the perfect socially-minded, free market loving, young politician. To explain what I mean let me just quote from Wikipedia: “Frydenberg studied law and economics at Monash University, earning honours in both degrees, before working at Mallesons Stephen Jaques, a large Australian commercial law firm. He attended the University of Oxford on a Commonwealth scholarship, where he attained a Master of International Relations degree in 1998 and was a student at University College. He also attained the degree of Master of Public Administration at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. In 1999 he worked as an assistant adviser to Attorney-General Daryl Williams before becoming an adviser to Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, a post he held until 2003. From 2003 to 2005 he was a policy adviser to Prime Minister John Howard…in 2005 he took up a position as a Director of Global Banking”

Impressive right? What you might fail to notice is that he’s gone from university to lawyer to academic, to academic, to political adviser, to political adviser, to more senior political advisor, to investment banker, to politician, all in just 7 years. He makes my whole 3 jobs in 2 years seem pretty normal. I know I sound jealous and to be honest I probably am, but c’mon he gets credited as being some incredible economic brain when all he did in investment banking was take calls related to his upcoming election to office. He’s done NOTHING but climb ladders and collect degrees and has failed to actually get any legitimate work experience that could improve his ability to understand his constituency and govern effectively.

Hmmmm as you can see I kinda have it in for old Frydie. But it’s pretty obvious who this person is in any workplace. They’re probably already above you having had no work experience, but armed with an MBA they clearly deserve to be your boss. Getting by, by leveraging your work, saying things like “leveraging” to make them sound more corporate and knowing how to work the system (and lateral hiring) they continue to move up the ranks, all the while never having turned on their actual computer to do any work.

Joe Hockey, aka Shaggy aka “It Wasn’t Me”

Ah Joe, he’s already out and lined up his token plum job. But the one thing I would like to focus on is Joe’s true talent: being able to blame the previous government for ANYTHING that is wrong currently. Who cares if it’s 2 years on, or that commodity prices have been subdued, it’s all Labor’s fault. That unwieldy deficit? Labor’s fault. Increasing costs of living? Labor’s fault. Your phone’s run out of battery? Labor’s fault. Anything wrong, is always the previous government’s fault.

Now this is not necessarily a bad thing and sometimes is legitimate. But I’ve noticed a recent practice as I’ve seen colleagues come and go through the organisation, that whenever something goes wrong, it’s always the fault of the person who’s most recently left. Whether it be missing targets, IT problems, or even just an out of date spreadsheet from a completely different department, it’s likely that this was all the problem of that person who left 5 months ago. “Legacy issues” I believe is the technical term, but be warned, once you leave an organisation they’re probably already blaming you for the crisis in the Middle East.

 Malcolm Turnbull, Oh Captain My Captain

The man needs no introduction. He’s the all mighty leader that if my Facebook newsfeed is anything to go by, he is actually a genetic mutant created with the mind of Tony Stark, the body of Chuck Norris and the heart of Ghandi. The man can apparently do no wrong and as he walks, a golden brick path is laid behind him, birds chirp sweet songs to announce his arrival, and he has one staffer dedicated to holding a halo around his head. We’re all happy to overlook the reality that there will be no change on climate change or marriage equality…no as long as dear Uncle Mal is in town, all will be well.

Clearly the MD of any business has done something right to get there. Every MD I’ve worked for, I’ve been in awe of. I’ve absolutely loved them. Wanted to be them. Wanted to listen to them all day….but then I kept listening. And it dawned on me that surely this MD can’t be oblivious to all all the shit and sniping under him? They actually benefit from the in-fighting. It keeps them in their position….[*pfffff* that’s my bubble of optimism bursting].

Julia Gillard / Kevin Rudd / Malcolm Turnbull / Bill Shorten any politician really….the Knifer aka The Faceless Man

I find it depressing that we just expect politicians to lie, backstab and be disloyal. If you think about parliament as a normal workplace, then realise that you could work with someone for years, hang out with them, go for beers with them after work, possibly even meet their partners and family, then as part of your actual job, cause them to lose their job….its surreal.

The fact is this exists in the corporate workplace too. I was in two minds about including this one. The fact is, the person reading this who might think that I’m writing about them [is firstly already correct…yes I am writing about you], and no doubt has already started to put in place motions to undo me at work.

The Knifer in the office is everyone’s worst nightmare…especially because you don’t ever expect him/her to actually act the way they eventually do. They wield so much inherent power without anyone actually realising, and are able to influence key decisions without anyone ever knowing they were behind it. They hoard information because information is power, and information makes them look more knowledgeable than their peers whose careers they’re trying to trample on as they hurriedly scamper up the corporate ladder like some filthy, diseased-infested, lying rat….[WOW! Oops that escalated quickly…I told you I have an anger problem….probably should add here that I’ve never worked with an actual “Knifer”, this is all just made up and based on “anecdotes” from “other people”]

Most importantly they’re always faceless [and in my book that means gutless]. They’ll always give you positive feedback to your face and in the same breath tell others about your failings, but in a way that makes it sound like the other person was the one criticising you. [Lol I don’t know how this happened but now the Knifer sounds like some Rasputin-esque, evil mastermind akin to any Disney movie evil guy that’s kinda cool …but just FYI these people aren’t cool evil people…actually not that Rasputin was cool…but you know at least he had some mystery about him…no these people are just dickheads. haha  I’ve just spent 300 words describing what I could’ve just said with ‘dickheads’…or even ‘shitbricks’…hahaha ‘shitbricks’ just doesn’t get enough air time, I need to add it to my common vocabulary more].

But another thing I’ve noticed is that these people are also incredibly emotionally deficient. They have the emotional intelligence of that pet stone named Craig you used to take to school [lol I named my pet stone Craig more because I just hated the name…sounds way too much like Greg and it’s confusing…]. So the way to combat these people is actually by just being a normal, caring person that’s well-liked by co-workers. It’s hilarious seeing the Knifer rodents then scamper after you because you’ve suddenly got something that they can’t get…a likeable personality.

….or so I hear…..

Press Gang

Lastly, I’d like to just make a note about the peanut gallery *erghm* I mean the press gallery. They’re the bastions of freedom, ‘keep the bastards honest’, the only people we can really trust in politics. But they’re also scum. Perpetuating a culture of poor political discourse. Driving a 24 hour news cycle that forgets devastating stories quicker than you can switch channels to The Bachelor.

The Press Gang exists at work too. I’m guilty of this all the time. I get frustrated with everyone above me, undermining and sniping each other, taking credit for my work. But all the time I complain, and complain and complain to fellow Press Gang members about how management just don’t get it, that they’re so clueless, that they have no idea of how it really is on the floor. All the while I never actually have the balls to step up and do something about it. Seriously stop fucking bitching, make a play and enter the game. Change it for the better.

[Wow at this stage I feel like I deserve a medal…not one Tony Abbott joke…you know what this means…more for later mwahhahahaha…that’s my evil Rasputin laugh]

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About Arani Satgunaseelan (78 Articles)
Corporate nerd. Wannabe blogger.

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