Forget the wider noble intentions – managers want to have power and be able to show that they have it for all to see. For most managers, management is about personal ambitions; power, money, status. One of the last taboos is to discuss how much you earn, so the trappings of success become disproportionately important. This is why sales staff can tolerate tinkering with their targets but messing with their car is treason. Salary is secret but the car is the evidence of success to show the neighbours.
Managers learn how to play the game. Power is not about efficiency; it is about showing that you are busier, more important and smarter than anyone else. Meeting power. Arrive last. Keep everyone waiting because their time is less valuable than yours. Read a 100 page document in the meeting to show you are so smart you can read, react and chair the meeting simultaneously. Leave the meeting to make phone calls so that the others know how unimportant their agenda item is. Conference power. Arrive just in time for your speech and leave immediately afterwards. Important people talk, unimportant people listen. If you have to stay, use coffee breaks to talk to people more important than you are. Talk in grave voices so underlings think you are deciding their fate.
Communication power. Never make or receive a phone call; use your secretary for that. Internal newsletters exist purely to carry your photograph on as many pages as possible. Never use a computer, except for email, but make sure that you have the latest and most expensive desktop, portable and hand-held machines. Instead of a computer use a fountain pen (tradition, expense) or red Biro (makes recipients of your comments feel like they are at school again).
Dress power. Dress for success. That means bespoke. If forced to wear smart casual, focus on smart, not casual – immaculately pressed clothes and designer labels to set you apart from the masses.
Eating power. Have a special diet. It must be esoteric and cause maximum disruption, ensuring you have special treatment on planes, in restaurants and even at work buffets. You need know nothing about wine; order the most expensive. Status, not taste is everything.
Pastimes power. Expense and exclusivity being vital, opera and shooting are good. Skiing is only good if it is in an exotic location. A pet charity implies wealth and enables you to network with other power people.
Ways to cope with power plays…
The path of least resistance. One company suffered a series of power cuts and continued their meetings in the dark.
This ranges from sycophancy to warfare. The sycophant runs around to ensure the boss gets the special diet; indulgence warfare is to make a big public display of meeting such arbitrary needs. This will embarrass the boss, shorten your career, but give yourself and others some transitory pleasure
If you can’t beat them… There must be someone more junior on whom you can play a few power games, isn’t there?