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BlogGames at Work in the movies

Games at Work in the movies

Games_at_work_in_the_moviesBy 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.


0 #2 luigi4235 2015-03-02 18:41
0 #1 luigi4235 2015-02-13 12:30

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Games of the Month

Token Involvement

To play Token Involvement, a manager conducts opinion surveys, focus group, or involvement meetings to communicate that "your opinion matters", but these activities are done only to make people feel involved rather than actually to involve them. The real intention is just to get rid of the complaints and for managers to show their management that they´re doing the "right" thing-involving their people in the decision-making process. The same game is played when leaders involve their direct reports supercially, soliciting their views on department strategy but relying exclusively on their views on department strategy but relying exclusively on thei own view. Cynicism becomes employees´ultimate response to this game, and they lose respect for management. Perhaps evens worse, when management really needs employees to be committed and contribuing to a major project, they have great difficulty securing this involvement.


Praise for Games at Work

jacopoA terrific read not only for senior leaders and executives but also for employees seeking growth in complex organizations. Goldstein and Read dissect the interpersonal dynamics that affect a company’s performance, provide a framework to understand the games that are commonly played in businesses around the world, and offer practical tools to correct these behaviors and improve the organization’s effectiveness.

Jacopo Bracco Executive Vice President DIRECTV Latin America

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