The holiday season is typically an enjoyable time, a chance to relax and de-stress, spend more time with family and friends, a moment greatly awaited by the professional community. On the other hand, this time can also be a period of big danger in the office. Political games tend to run high and become even more prevalent in the workplace, some people taking advantage of those who are absent.
For example, in a consumer goods company, Marcelo, the Marketing Director, proposes a project to reduce the packaging size for its highest selling product, but did not have the support from Roger, the Industrial Director. Roger said that the project would take time and resources from his team and he didn’t consider it a priority over the implementation of a new ERP.
As soon as Roger left for vacation, Marcelo included the topic of his project for discussion at an Executive Committee meeting. Other directors tried to oppose the project, but they did not propose sufficient arguments to counter Marcelo’s insistence, that ultimately resulted in the project approval with support from the President. When he returned from his vacation, Roger was furious, but it was too late. The investment for new equipment was already approved, along with the signed order from the manufacturer in Germany. Marcelo skillfully played the game “a stagnant project becomes urgent”.
Some of the more commonly played games played out in the workplace when colleagues leave for vacation are:
• Marginalization: With Marginalization, people are exiled from teams or groups because they threaten the status quo, for not being part of the boss’s clan or for “not fitting in” due to other reasons. The person is excluded from the process to take decisions and his/her efficiency is therefore limited. And vacation is a great time to do this without the marginalized there to complain.
• Blame: In Blame, people look to others to place responsibility as an excuse for their own behavior. And if the one who is to “blame” is on vacation, it is even easier to do it as he can’t defend himself.
• Stealing credit: In this game, the player takes credit, by subtle means, or not even so subtle, for the work that he did not do. But, by dressing up the work differently, or by putting his name on the slides, or by demonstrating such great enthusiasm with the generation of an idea, he ends up convincing others that he deserves some credit. And to steal credit is easy when there is “no one at home”.
• Public challenge of your loyalty: In this game, the player publicly denounces the loyalty of someone in the company, or as a resistance to change, only because this person showed some legitimate worries in regards to the way the company is approaching a problem, instead of responding to the worries.
Not only do the people that remain in the office play games throughout the holiday season. There are as well political games played by those who leave for vacation. The main ones are:
• Unavailability: The player is skillful in influencing the situation in his favor to arrange agendas, in such a way that he is never available for people that don’t think as he does. The game is won by not taking other perspectives into account, and having succeeded in avoiding the supporters of such perspectives. And some use their own vacation to become unavailable.
• No decision: The game of No Decision implies the encounter of innumerable reasons to not make a choice. Some of these reasons can apparently make sense, but the underlying reason behind the choice of this game is that, if you do not decide, then you cannot be punished for having taken the wrong decision. To leave for vacation is the perfect way to delay inconvenient decisions.
• False absence: In this game, the player leaves an automatic reply message of absence in his email system, advising that he will be away on vacation for the forthcoming weeks and will not be able to read emails. But he continues to work normally and does this merely to control the projects that he wants to advance and ignore others, without the sender knowing.
Obviously, an important question is how to deal with games at work over the holidays. Sometimes it is not possible to avoid them (as it’s not possible to avoid political games from day-to-day), but the risks can be minimized. Here are some tips:
• Prevent it: In the month prior to your vacation, identify potential ambiguous areas or tensions that can give room to games at work and take a preventive attitude before they happen.
• Keep your eyes and ears open: As much before as after your vacation, stay especially attuned to perceive changes and decisions that have occurred and how they influence you
• Confide in your social capital: If you carefully construct a good social network, based on trust and respect, there is less chance that political games will occur in your absence and you won’t be represented. Confide in your relationships...
• Deepen your connections: If nothing else worked, take advantage of the situation to initiate productive conversations over what occurred and strengthen connections and agreements.
Take advantage of whatever situation that comes along as a learning experience ...But above all, take advantage of your vacation and renew your energy!