Dec 17, 2017

Soviet Folklore and Office Politics

Soviet Folklore and Office Politics (article)Hello Readers,

As we approach the close of another year at Working Quietly, I'd like to wish you a Happy Holiday season and a Happy 2018! And I promise you, the title of this post does not reek of clickbait - I do have a story to share with you, and a valuable career lesson too.

Several decades ago, under the ubiquitous supervision of an ever-encroaching state, a form of cheeky and rebellious humor was borne out of the ranks of everyday Soviet citizens who wanted to have a way to let off some steam after enduring the daily stresses of life in the Soviet Union. These desires gave rise to anekdoty - a form of humoristic story telling that often conveyed a political message under the guise of a well written joke.

So, you may ask, why am I writing about this in a blog that is created to help people navigate office politics? Well as it turns out, there are fortunately (or unfortunately) many parallels between life under the Soviet Union, and life in the dull, dreary office as we know it today.

Don't believe me? I had more than a bit of fun creating this meme for you:

The story described in the meme is based on an old Soviet anecdote that pokes fun at the difference between expectations of hungry patrons at a restaurant, and what actually gets delivered from the kitchen to their plate. Sadly, we see this scene play out all the time at the office, where managers are often more than eager to please stakeholders and senior executives by making promises that cannot realistically be delivered by overburdened project teams.
Many of us will accept these challenges as just the facts of life that are inherent with a day-to-day office job. But I have always wondered - why is it that we accept this behavior at the office, but would never accept it if we sat down and paid for a quality meal at a fancy restaurant?

Fortunately, the answer is inherent in the question. When everybody earns a salary at work, regardless of the actual work that they do, managers (and your coworkers) can make promises of you that they do not actually have to pay for. It really is that simple.

And unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to other behaviors that we accept daily in our working lives but would never tolerate in any other part of our lives.

This is the first of a series of articles that will explore this phenomenon and draw even more parallels between life behind the iron curtain, and life behind your cubicle walls (if you are lucky enough to have them).

So, I turn the tables over to you. Do you have a story of a project gone off the rails due to improperly managed expectations? Were you able to deliver on time, despite the chaos and uncertainty? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Welcome to the office, Comrade, and Happy Holidays!


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