In my old job, I worked for the boss.
Wait, let me back up. Of course I worked for my boss.
But my boss was the one who had the final say, the one that everyone else had to bend around. THE BOSS.
And I knew that my boss backed me up 100%. Within reason, of course, but my boss wouldn’t throw me under the bus.
With this convenient arrangement, I could throw myself into the fray of academic politics without much regard for my safety. I had no political designs myself (although my boss may have), and merely had to position myself and my projects in such a way that I could get the rest of my faculty stakeholders on board.
I didn’t have to worry about myself.
In this new job, though, I don’t work for the boss anymore.
My boss is just another face in a long line of middle managers (they don’t call them that in my industry, but that’s what they are).
Maybe he has the ear of certain people, but those people can make whatever decisions they want.
Those people don’t have my back. It remains to be seen if my own boss has my back.
(I’m not going to count on it.)
As I settle into this position and start to take on more responsibility–and talk to new people–it’s becoming clear that the political landscape is a bit more vicious. The pieces are out on the board, and they’ve already drawn blood. (Bit of a mixed metaphor, but it works to describe the slow-moving bloodsport that is academic politics.)
This time, I can’t enjoy my protected little vantage point and focus on getting things done..
This time, I have to play for myself.
The reality of this situation finally hit home this afternoon. I’m no longer a politically neutral entity that operates more or less in tandem with my boss-like entity.
If I am going to be effective, it is imperative that I acquire a reputation and political capital (is that what they’re calling it these days?) on my own. It must be as separate from my boss as I can make it.
Which will be a challenge, since he’s a micromanager.
I now have skin in the game.