Falling Prey to Power Plays from Other Managers

June 11, 2018

Falling Prey to Power Plays from Other Managersplays

In a previous post, we saw how YOU (Galen), as manager of a unit in a card manufacturing company, assign a new project to Mike because Mike used phrases which were sacrosanct in your work culture.

Now YOU attend a management meeting of Alicia (YOUR boss), and your peer managers (Dante and Marguerite), to discuss how to fund the new project.

Alicia: Okay, next item: funding Galen’s project.
YOU: We’ll need about $500,000 for the software and marketing.
Dante: That’s a lot! Where’s it gonna come from?
YOU: I assume from Alicia’s special projects fund.
Alicia: That would pretty much clean it out for the year.
YOU: Maybe we each can take a hit on our budgets.
Marguerite: Alicia, I’m already to the bone. More cuts would mean I can’t meet my deadlines and there would be hell to pay down the line.
Alicia: Yes, I can see that.
Dante:  It can’t be from mine! Alicia, you’re usually right on the money on new trends, but as you yourself say, better safe than sorry.
Alicia: In what way?
Dante: We can’t jeopardize our other operations. Let’s start small in Galen’s area and then see where we are.
YOU: I don’t have the money!
Marguerite: But Galen, it’ll be good for the company. Don’t you think a little sacrifice is worth it?
YOU: What’s wrong with sharing the burden?
Dante: But why jeopardize all our operations? Let’s localize the issue in one unit.
Alicia: I have to agree. I can give you half from the special projects fund but the rest has to come from within your unit.
YOU: I don’t think I can take it on without the money.
Alicia: But it will be so good for our company brand, won’t it?
YOU: I suppose.
Alicia: Great, so that’s settled.

You have lost to the power plays

The other managers, and even Alicia, used tactics which effectively stymied YOUR efforts. They used what’s good for the company brand but in addition, a couple of other tried and true methods.

Scare tactics often positions what the speaker wants as avoiding long-term disaster. Marguerite says: More cuts would mean I can’t meet my deadlines and there would be hell to pay down the line. And Alicia bought it.

Flattery by those who do it badly is easy to spot and avoid. You are so smart, insightful, shrewd, etc. But it can be quite subtle. Dante says: Alicia, you’re usually right on the money on new trends, but as you yourself say, better safe than sorry.

So these hot button tactics work at all levels of the organization and effectively put a stop to any substantive discussion of the options.

YOU lost the battle because you couldn’t counter the undercurrents or power plays which were in operation. In the next post, I want to talk about how to make tough decisions, like finding the money to fund the new project. In the post after that, I’ll cover how you can try to avoid being caught in the power undertow as you were in this dialog.

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