WHY ENGINEER? — Chapter 7 — What Do I Need to Know About Office Politics?

Just to get you going, how about a little sarcasm? Here’s my definition of “politics”.

Poli-tics : many blood sucking insects.

OK, now I can back off a little, just a little.

The first and already discussed aspect of politics is the use of lies to get ahead. I think I discussed that enough in the blog about ethics, so I’ll skip that part of politics.

Possibly the least objectionable thing about office politics is the surest way to the top, treating the company as though it is the most important thing in your life. All you have to do is work more hours than anyone else. Work weekends. Work nights. Companies tend to reward that type of behavior with promotions. Pretty soon you will give the impression that you will make a good manager.

That was simple! Yet, it has some flaws that can catch you unawares. First, when you are promoted into management, you will convince yourself that you got there because you are the greatest engineer the world has ever seen. The odds of that being true are near zero. If you don’t fall for that, you will probably be a better manager. The next falsehood you need to avoid is that you got the job because you are a great manager…WRONG! You got the job because you sacrificed most of your life for the company.

So, if you can avoid those two traps, and you don’t mind what it has done to your private life, and you actually do have good management skills, you will do well and be happy.

So, here is the other side of the coin. I have a friend who was faced with a request to work a lot of free overtime. This was his response, “I have a job, and I have a wife, and I am only married to one of them!” You might want to think about that.

The third side of the coin comes from a statement by one of my undergraduate professors, whose name I can not recall. “You will never get rich as an engineer, but you will always love your work.” That is no small thing for most of us. Remaining part of the “productive flow” has great charm. There is no shame in it, even if you never have anyone work for you throughout your whole career. And it has one really nice benefit, you can pretty much avoid any involvement in office politics.

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