Thursday, February 01, 2007

Because the stakes are so small

"University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small."
-- Henry Kissinger

I’m not a fan on Henry Kissinger by any means, but even the Devil can be right sometimes. It’s not university politics which concerns me though, but the sometimes byzantine intrigue which takes place within even relatively minor projects.

I’ve found office politics to be in turns, disgusting, depressing and distressing. It can occasionally be amusing, but only in the slightly tight-lipped, pathetic way an argument between two drunken bums might be amusing. What it usually is, is soul-destroyingly depressing. It sours the atmosphere of the entire project, splits teams and causes you to loose respect for people you’ll probably have to deal with on a daily basis.

And it’s usually so petty. The motivations are so base; jealousy, imagined slights, over-reaching ambition and profound insecurities. The tactics are so filthy; lies, rumour mongering and gossip. And what are the fruits? The imagined goals are usually minor things like a promotion, a slightly better appraisal or even something as petty as sucking up to management. The eventual result is usually bitterness, a loss of respect of others for ones-self and the debasement of your own soul.

How is one to deal with it when it starts? I have no clue. The people who are of this mould are usually incorrigibly bent out of true. You can try to straighten them out or bend yourself to fit their twisted psyche, but it’s usually futile. Both your resistance or compliance will trigger something within them which will make you their target. The base (and it is very base) cause, is that deep down, they actually enjoy the cut and thrust of it. And that won’t change until they do.

So should one get down in the mud and wrestle with them? Nope. You’ll feel disgusted with yourself, while they’ll be loving it. The best policy is to keep your interaction with such people to a minimum and just get on with doing a good job. They’ll either make so many enemies, they’ll finally be pushed out…

…or they’ll become the CEO.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Based on my experience, in the biological sciences and particularly the field oriented, non-bench research funded and thus starved branches of State schools, the profs that came up in the 70's and 80's are some of the most mercenary bastards ever to walk the earth. The funding environment is horrendous, they don't expect tenure, and they seem to feel free to abuse their students (when they pay any attention to them at all) and fully expect you to do the same should you survive the grad school process with your sanity intact. There's a siege mentality wrought from a culture of scarcity and abuse that no one should have to suffer doesn't prepare anybody for anything but the nuthouse. I now think that grad school, particularly if you're real-world oriented and not expecting an academic job, is for most of us mere mortals a crock of shit. For the prospective student, I would suggest going straight into gaining as many hard skills and field experience as might be able to save yourself a lot of grief and have just as much access to work.