Play the Game, or Not?

Posted on: May 5th, 2015 by
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Two professionals were Directors of HR for major divisions of a corporation (out of 5 divisions). Both applied for the Corporate VP job. John was from the consumer products division and looked like a marketed product (wing tipped shoes, sharp dresser, silk tie). He was also highly political, a glad-hander and brownnoser with below average competence in HR. Fred, on the other hand, was highly competent in HR with a solid reputation, had a more rumpled professorial look, was non-political and on the industrial side of the corporation. Guess which one got the top job? Right… John.

Which leads me to several questions: Is it worth playing the game, or not?

Is there a correlation between the company’s business and the type of people in it? Absolutely! Anyone in a marketing/sales role working in the mining industry would have great difficulty in the same role within an advertising company. The same is true for most other functions. People in basic industries tend to be “salt of the earth” types, while glossy, urbane industries tend to look for similar types to match.

Should you “act the part” in order to get a job or promotion? Absolutely not! Play-acting to get a job usually means being someone you’re not during a series of interviews. Acting as someone else is impossible to maintain for months and years. If you can’t be yourself and be accepted, it’s very tiring, emotionally draining and sometimes leads to depression. All this impacts your results in a negative way.

Should you change your values and style to “fit in” the corporate culture? The answer boils down to the ethical question: Will you do what your told, or do you actually do what’s right? Actors will make a decision because they know it’s politically expedient but not the right decision. The true professional may not fit into one organization but shines in another, usually at a higher career level, with greater job satisfaction and contribution…. but not all of the time.

Should a hiring manager only hire people in their own image? Hiring in your own image is a sign of a weak or insecure manager. Each hiring manager should commit to all the employees they bring on board. Think of the analogy: A sailing ship on smooth waters will never outpace a ship with strong winds and a competent crew. A mix of the right kind of people is always preferable than a group of the same kind of people.

Are the relationships within the work group more important than performance? Look at the results: Are you sacrificing performance for smooth relationships? Can higher performance be managed through higher standards and teamwork?

Usually higher results are based on both relationships and performance. The right mix and fit determine results.

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