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Society

Josphat grapples with murky office politics

The office is quite empty, and I must say I like it. Most people are on leave and that makes life very easy. One of the pleasures of this emptiness is that parking slots are easily available.

In my former workplace, we all had designated parking slots, but this has not been the case with my new employer. I was informed by the HR manager that designated parking slots create feelings of entitlement and lead some bosses to look down on others. The lack of parking slots creates a feeling of equity. While this is true, it forces some of us to get to the office early so that we do not lose out on parking. With people on leave, parking is no longer an issue and I come to the office at 9am and still find parking.

My boss is on leave and he told me not to contact him “unless there is a fire, or someone has died.” However, he gave me a task to prepare the “first cut of our strategy for 2020”. I felt ill-equipped to do a strategy and said, “Maybe you can give me some ideas on what I should look out for.” He gave me a weird look and said, “Are you saying you have no clue on how to do strategy?”

I now have learnt how to sass out bosses and their intentions — I could tell that the wrong answer could translate to no confirmation at the end of my probation. So I responded, “Having looked at the five-year strategy document, I am fully aware of the key priorities. However, I just wanted you to share any thoughts on anything we need to tweak.”

This answer seemed to please him as he went to the flip board and started scribbling his views. He then told me, “You always need to do that, most of these so-called strategies are the CEO’s wishlist. What he or she fancies — nothing more nothing less. He said, “Take our current CEO, he is obsessed with culture so much that he does not care about targets.” He continued, “So make sure you put enough culture in your presentation and he likes words like DNA and Culture 2.0”

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I could tell that my boss does not think much of the CEO, but I stayed mute. Then he said, “Can I tell you a secret?” I like it when bosses confide in me because it means that they are beginning to trust me. He said, “my contacts at the head office tell me that this CEO will not last past June — he will be recalled to some desk job in head office.”

I was surprised by what came next. My boss proceeded to rant about how the company “seems to think that only expatriates can run this company — some of us can do an even better job.” He then went on to complain about how “Matiang’i should come for all the expats here — they are costing some of us jobs”. I was not sure how to respond all of this and so I opted to stay quiet.

At the end of the session, my boss then said, “of course this is between the two of us, I expect complete loyalty from my team.” I nodded vigorously and said, “You can count on me.” We then rehashed the key points that he wanted me to include in the presentation. I felt like I was leaving a prison cell as I walked away from his office. Clearly one cannot escape office politics.

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