Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Office politics: An homage to Niccolo Machiavelli

I just got a physical copy of my new book, The Rules of Office Politics. It's always an incredibly proud moment for me to hold in my hands an actual copy of the book with its hard back binding and wrap-around cover.

But today I thought I would pay homage to the father of office politics, Niccolo Machiavelli.

Machiavelli had been in a senior position of power in Florence, Italy when Spain invaded his country and he was captured, tortured, and banished. It was during his exile that he wrote his tome on politics, The Prince.

Things have moved on in the world of management since Machiavelli wrote: "it is better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both". Nowadays, in a world in which good quality employees are hard to recruit, most modern-day managers realise that it is better to manage with carrot than stick.

However, Machiavelli still has much to teach us. Particularly on the topic of change, he writes: "There is nothing more difficult to carry out... than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit from the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order."

While Machiavelli's morals may be questioned (hence the term 'Machiavellian' being applied to all manner of dubious manouevrings), what he did teach us was that it is wise to take a strategic approach to building relationships and trying to get things done at work. And that's certainly a message that I have taken forward in my own tome on the topic of office politics.