GUEST COMMENT: The only way to succeed in finance is by playing nasty office politics

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If there is ever an important piece of advice that university lecturers and textbooks fail to impart to students entering the workforce, it is the fundamentals of office politics. It's the, "who you know, not what you know," ticket that guarantees movement up the corporate ladder.

I've watched in amusement as co-workers, managers, and MDs strategise to get themselves promotions and bigger bonuses. The best of them make office politics look like an art form.

My disappearing manager

I once had a manager who disappeared from his desk at 12pm sharp every Friday and would stumble back to the office every few hours smelling of cigarettes and alcohol. He used these bar-hopping benders as bonding time with those higher up the hierarchy.

Another co-worker started off as an analyst. She lacked experience, but had a killer personality, was super talented at banking and invited us to the wildest parties. She knew exactly how to win over everyone in the office. Two years into her job, she set a precedent by skipping one management level and was catapulted up to become associate director.

Gang rivalries

Perhaps the most memorable display of politics I've witnessed was when my recent manager was looked over for a position she had patiently waited ten years for. The job was taken by an outsider after she returned from holiday.

In response to what felt like a scathing slap in the face, she made her new boss' life miserable by withholding information, refusing to work in unison, wearing the passive-aggressive front on a daily basis, and ultimately garnered the sympathy and backing of the staff. Refusing to be bullied, the new hire mobilised new recruits and slowly started to take power. It was a sad case of office gang rivalry.

My takeaway

My observations and experience are drawn from the highly competitive world of financial services. Here, it seems employees will often do whatever it takes to get more money, more power and more recognition.

It might seem best to get on with your work and stay out of it. But, if you have been overlooked for a promotion because you took the moral high ground and didn't play politics, you may feel justifiably aggrieved. Unfortunately, playing politics is necessary in this industry.

Don't hate the player, hate the game.