By Mauricio Goldstein
Games at Work are part of our daily lives, and we often do not realize it. They exist in our personal relationships, in our business dealings, and even in our leisure.
A few weeks ago, I watched the movie “Up in the Air” where George Clooney plays Ryan Bigham, an executive at CTC (Career Transition Company), a company specialized in firing people. Leaders, not daring to turn their employees, use CTC services to do the “dirty work”. Clooney invites employees who are going to be fired to an office, offers them a complete package of documents and a speech to give them the bad news, and deals with people's emotions.
The main games we identified in this movie are played by the leaders who hire Ryan´s services:
• No Negative Feedback – where the leader doesn´t give any negative feedback or bad news to their employees, and
• Not my problem anymore - where the leader, instead of dealing with a difficult situation as the dismissal of an employee, passes on the problem to someone else
Ryan introduces himself: "I work for another company that lends me out to pussies like Steve's boss, who don't have the balls to sack their own employees." Interestingly, Clooney's work can be regarded as unpleasant, disgusting or even immoral, but should not be seen in a game, as it is done in a transparent way and its intention is clear (the political game always has a characteristic manipulation concealed).
Later, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), a fresh young up-and-comer who has recently graduated at the top of her class at Cornell, is hired as the president´s “darling”: she introduces an on-line monitor that will be used to fire people from a remote location over the internet, eliminating travel expenses. Natalie is playing the Big Splash Career Hopper game, where a manager new in a role develops a “big idea” (big splash) that will then be heavily marketed as both bold (entailing massive and rapid change) and successful (when judged in the very short term) and will justify his rapid promotion out of this job into another one (career hop), before the actual failure of this big idea catches up with him.
But, in this case, she neutralizes the game herself: one of the people fired by Natalie commits suicide, and this generates the rational and emotional awakening required for her to decide to stop playing and quit the firm.
Several films contain many games: In the Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep is a ruthless executive of the fashion world undergoing Anne Hathaway to games such as Marginalizing (where a person is exiled from the team for "not fitting") and Keep them guessing (where people never know how the manager is thinking and therefore become extremely cautious and even fearful). Or in Erin Brockovich, where Julia Roberts is also sidelined (Marginalized) when her boss at the law firm realizes that the cause she is defending has enormous potential and he decides to involve more experienced lawyers, without telling her. And the list could go on and on with Wall Street, In Good Company, The Devil's Advocate, etc..
The cinema only shows us what we already know: games are a constant presence in real life. And just becoming aware and awakening to this fact (and the political games in which we are engaged), will it be possible to transform the corporate world into a better place for all of us.