I was a bit naive when I got my first real office job in 2007. I thought that what really matters is results, that good ideas and initiatives are always welcome.
Girl (instead of boy, just for a change), was I wrong. Just like in politics, where gaining more power for oneself is usually more tempting than the greater good of the society, in private companies everyone fights for getting up the ladder and that has little to do with the results one achieves. I mean, it has some correlation of course: otherwise these companies would never achieve anything. However, full potential is never achieved because much of the effort is used to fight over territories.
I have now had quite a few jobs, in smaller and larger organizations, and the only time I did not see this happening was when I had my own company and was my own boss. Everything else was a bit of a theater with hidden plots everywhere.
Maybe it would be find to have some of the political game. People like playing games, it only makes our lives more interesting. The problem is that not everyone has possibilities to play according to the same rules…
Have you heard about decisions made in a small group of smokers (if the boss is smoking, for example)? They just happened to go out for a cig and came back with a plan. Not involving the non-smoking folks that where working during that time… I think this scenario is actually getting rarer due to stricter and stricter smoking laws in in general declining tobacco usage in the world.
However, another similar example remains. It is called FACE TIME. I am not talking about an app to make video calls. I’m talking about showing your face in the office and getting rewarded just for that. Not results, not ideas, not real honest dedication. Just being in the office and staying late hours. It does not matter if those hours are spent drinking coffee and checking Facebook. Does not matter. If you look busy, you are perceived busy, you are perceived as a good employee. In (too) many organizations, unfortunately.
This game is extraordinary difficult for mothers. It is them, who usually get the task to pick up the kids or stay with them when they are sick. They are, in fact, expected to do so. These women may be the most organized, best results delivering employees. The problem? They leave early or come late. They spend fewer hours and it is, unfortunately, hours that matter.
I do understand those situations, where a mother with a small child is not chosen for a project, which requires a lot of travelling and being away from the family. Yes, choose a single person for that. But there are tons of situations that have nothing to do with this geographical inflexibility. I know some mothers that regularly work after the children sleep and in fact deliver same amount of hours as the single people/men and are super result driven and delivering. But their face is not visible, hence those hours do not count. It is a bit like those brands that get a lot of visibility and at some point become your first choice, even though a bit less advertised brand is better, cheaper and environmentally friendlier…
I did not invent this. I recently read an economist article on this very topic:
“Her male colleagues wasted time during the day—taking long lunches, gossiping over café au lait—but stayed late every evening. She packed her work into fewer hours, but because she did not put in enough “face time” the firm felt she lacked commitment.”
It is a common issue, but it is hard to do something about it. I can only hope that the current trend is towards everybody required a bit better work/life balance and not willing to spend all awake hours in the office. Maybe… maybe one day this will be a “stupid thing of the past”…