My Communication Skills lecturer would simply define Grapevine as the informal communication that takes place in a formal organisation set up. It’s similar to gutter press in the journalism world. This has to do with news that is not incorporated in the mainstream channels of communication. Now, depending on how grapevine is managed, it largely determines the nature of office politics. This reminds me of something. Slightly over four years ago, green and naive but hugely toying and struggling to carry the weight of unrealistic ambitions and soon after joining the job market, one of my brothers in law advised me to be careful about office politics. He indirectly warned me to avoid at all cost, to ever get caught in the crosshairs and crossroads of office politics. What he didn’t tell me is, that was easier said than done. For them that more often than not refuse to tow in the line of subtle oppression and status quo mentality, normally find themselves in the wrong side of office politics once in a while.
You probably have been a victim too, being haunted by cold wars and political machinations of the big kahunas and opinion shapers in the kingdom of your office. Normally, these characters naturally or overtime courtesy of their unrivalled skills or reputation tend to wield staggering influence which if you dare to go against, you’ll experience something close to being clobbered and roughed up to a moving car for god knows where. Your significant others will search for you in vain only to find you after a week, killing hours unwillingly in the dull and graffiti walls of Pangani cells. It won’t happen in the real sense but in the mind games and the bruising rivalry in any typical office. You’ll perhaps be sidelined and ridiculed for failing to be a sycophant of a camp that calls the shots.
This happens all over the world. In fact, office politics is a hot potato that many Managers struggle to either control or contain. From the giant blue chip multinationals in California – U.S to tiny NGOs somewhere in Africa, all seem to struggle with managing office politics.
This is because Office Politics is a platform where supremacy and ego’s heights are measured and tested. It’s a dark room so to speak that cartels information and dispenses it based on trust. In fact the more confidential information one has the more valuable he/she seems to be. By the way, nobody should hoodwink you that it is not similar to national politics. In fact, most offices entertain the bully-like Moses Kurias and Muthamas of this world. And just like in typical Kenyan politics, here friendship relationships never last for long. Actually, the main characters never bother to mind the so called subjects; it’s a game of numbers and changing goal posts. The one with a larger following is perceived to wield more power over the rest. But predictably, in the heat of trying to keep souls in your camp happy, a fall out and eventual spill out never fails to occur and recur every so often. When this happens, they are welcomed shoulder high by the corded opponents. Hahaha.
Exit office politics enter Office characters;
They make the most trusted circle of the top management. They are very few in number say 4 to 8 or more depending on the size of the organisation. Normally, they dispense some unique skills or occupy influential positions which the management in most cases is never willing to let scot free. They brag of always being ahead of the flocks in terms of the latest updates in the company from drafts of warning letters, promotion leakages, changes of salaries, available vacancies, pending sackings and reshuffles of departmental heads and so forth. They are actively consulted and used to test the waters whenever a major decision is just about to be made. But they have to prove and exhibit a particular character; they must be extremely loyal. In other words they are expected to be sycophants who bend over to every whim, request, command and wish of the top management. Some naughty fellows will call them – The ass lickers!
These are characters that head Kitchen cabinets. They are the ultimate – bend overs, if you may. They rubber stamp every cry or call from the top brass. They agree to everything suggested by the Management even if it is about drastically cutting their salaries. To them it’s all about wielding power at all costs. With this, they enjoy basking under the trappings of power be it enjoying expensive trips to Naivasha fully financed by company money or receiving windfall gifts every now and then. Having a liberal mind is never one of their fundamental human rights. In fact they auction it to chase the elusive power. You can call them power hungry monsters who pay the price by whatever cost even if its sleeping with the boss.
These are the Boniface Mwangi’s of this world. They are brilliant minds behind quiet revolutions in organisations, staff strikes and Go Slows. You’ll spot them leading demos in the streets bracing tear gases and daring to be screened live on camera never minding of the impending consequences if found guilty of organising the-never-legal strikes. These characters cannot just be fired as they are the necessary evil of a company. They are the company geniuses, creative minds and skillful lot. They are what the management labels thorn in the flesh! Woo unto you if you join this movement with no track record to show. A majority get into this camp through getting fired from the Kitchen cabinets. They are the Langat Margerers and Ababu Namwamba who in many a times bite more than they can chew. They are dare devils of the company, very intimidating and always daring to score from far distances. They so well understand the management psychology and how it is likely to react.
Project X Generation
Describing them as Party Animals might sound as an under estimation. Their social media images leave traces of hangovered characters who earn to live large and post their entire life on Instagram partying with who’s who and drinking to the most pricey champagne. They have this larger than life demeanor. They are Shaffie Werus wannabe who party 3 or 4 days a week. Red eyes and smell of alcohol is what they are known for. They take over tea and lunch breaks narrating their night out escapades and how they got home at 4am on a Thursday morning. Once in a while they get warning letters from the HR’s desk due to their extreme dressing code that has everything to do with leaving bare fodder and cleavages for anyone who cares to drool at. They also have a thing with earphones and headphones.
These are men (and women) who have a problem with taming their libidos. They salivate at every passing miniskirt or any exposed thigh. They brag to have slept with the highest number of office colleagues. Formed from across all ages in the payroll; they hit and run naive office interns and loosened married colleagues just for bragging rights. They have no particular taste for women. Young or old, junior or senior, fairly new or the experienced crop, from the enviable Kitchen cabinet characters to the chest thumping Opposition and the rest of them all; they turn around humans and run over without breaking a sweat. Going by their mouthwatering tales and cunning traits, they trap an overwhelming number. To them that dare not to cooperate, in most cases are normally treated with coercive threats.
The Junior Nobodies
These are souls who don’t matter to anybody. They dispense zero influence not even to themselves. They are the office people who rarely get noticed even when they fail to turn up in the office for a week. It’s even worse when they go for annual leaves; nobody ever gets hit by their absentia. They are quiet, dull men and women who speak less and perform tasks that have no substantial impact. They fit in the crowd and rarely standout in anything. They are not necessary intellects or known for anything that could excite the rest.
They are the undercover investigators and moral cops armed with rogue bloggers mentality. With this, they crawl and smoke out highly confidential information from its hideouts. They earn a living by making or breaking people’s careers effortlessly. They are the only section of the society that can get away with lies and concocted half- truths and happen to convince the rest to buy their story. They are soft killers at hire, if you may, who go to an extent of bribing money hungry Kitchen Cabinet characters just to get first-hand information.
Know-it-all IT Gurus
They brag of having the possession of all company passwords from protected WIFI pins to hacking cloud backup systems to tapping highly sensitive emails and phone calls. They are the same characters behind jamming LAN (Local Area Networks) if not interfering with CCTV softwares. These characters are heavily outsourced by the Opposition to furnish them with confidential information in their grip. This helps the latter to gain political mileage if not arm twisting the Management.
Now, even after this classification I’m not sure where I lie!! That said, somebody advised me that in order to safely swim across the rivers of Office Politics; is by simply minding my own business.