June 30, 2006

Office Politics

The longer I work at my current place of employment, the more it amazes me. As it's the first time for me to work in a big organisation like this (about 1500 people at this establishment, with other offices in about 4 other countries) it's difficult to assess whether or not this is normal. Some examples:

- upper management drinks. A lot. The first bottles of wine are opened between 4 and 5pm. But it isn't social drinking, people just sit in their own offices behind their computers and their stacks of papers and have a glass of wine (or 2 or 3) just as anyone else would have coffee.

- The Clique: the Department is a tight group of people, many of whom have worked together for 10 years or more. Even though there are different projects within the department it feels like a good team. This also has its disadvantages though: no room for outsiders. Yesterday there were interviews for five managerial positions (to clarify, this department is quite powerful within its directorate; some colleagues have mentioned that this year is like continuous Christmas: lots of money for lots of new projects).
Although the decisions aren't formalized yet it is quite clear who will get which position. Two of the five are successor-posts and they are being filled by people out of the respective teams. The other three are completely new: they are all being filled by people from the project which is physically closest to the department head (and incidentally, that project manager is the right-hand-man of the department head). Yep, the way to have a successful career is to have your office in the same corridor as the department head....

Actually, after having seen now how this department works, it is clear that my 'career' is by and large due to the fact that I'm only a door away from my boss and her's: the department head. If I would have been stuck on any other project - meaning on a different floor/in a different corridor - my job wouldn't have been nearly so good (relatively speaking, that is; it's still boring and simple).

- men vs. women: my PoE is an extremely male-dominated organisation. It is very technical, and I guess that explains it, no matter how cliche that may be. But! It does have its advantages: every door is always held open for me (and, confirming the stereotype, if it isn't than 9 out of 10 times the guy in front of me is German or Dutch!); I am never allowed to buy a round of coffee at lunch; and it has happened a few times now that when we go out with a project team, the women are being paid for while the men have to pay their own way. Very, very old-fashioned and conservative, huh?

Hmm, I'm sure I'll think of more. Can anyone tell me if this is normal? I tend to think not... (except for the career development strategy maybe).

No comments: