Being Right Can Be Wrong...
August 18, 2015
Everyone wants to stay on top of the latest ways to do better radio but it's the continuous lesson of Office Politics that seems to be the hardest concept to grasp. It is a simple concept; find ways to coexist, redirect, bite the bullet, and maneuver in the work place without jeopardizing your employment or bargaining chips.
Someone once told me, "Try and let the other guy win sometimes," but the key is to know when to assert and when not to.
I once had a GM who would constantly complain about music. Even though he was fully briefed on all callout research and perceptual studies, he would occasionally elbow his way into our music selections. Fortunately, he would only do so after a song had long become a recurrent. It was amazing. He literally listened like a consumer; he would always begin asking questions about a song in the seventh or eighth week. His pattern was too readdress his concerns six weeks later, by which time a song's existence was minimal to the success of our station. I would explain to him the factual reasons for the song on our station. Meanwhile, my MD would wonder why he was meddling even though our station was doing well in the ratings. In his best efforts to be fair, the GM would mull over my input for a few more weeks before again suggesting I remove the song from rotation. By this time another two or three weeks would pass. I would then tell the MD to put the song on hold and let the GM have his way.
Placing the once power rotation song on hold from the recurrent category would always buy me five or six months before the GM would find another song or anything else I was doing questionable. Ironically, the guy felt like he had bullied me and would try and console me by being overly considerate regarding anything with my department.
The MD eventually understood what I had come to understand and we would laugh every time the GM would make his twice a year stance to show he was in charge.
My point is, office politics matter and they never grow old. Ratings are usually not the reason for an air personality or PD to lose a job; many times it's how you handle business within the staff. In the case of the following programmer, being right might cost him and one of his jocks their jobs. Here is what unfolded:
PD: It took a year, but the sales manager finally got back at me and one of my jocks.
Coach: Talk to me.
PD: Over a year ago, there was an incident involving a local promoter. He had a weekly event at a local club and it was stipulated in writing that I had the say so when it came to the personality who would appear at this weekly station promotion. Well, long story short, the promoter told the salesperson who then told the sales manager that he did not want that jock at his event.
Coach: What was the reason?
PD: I asked more than once, but never got an answer. I went back and forth with the sales manager pointing out the signed agreement stipulating I had the say on the talent. His argument was the client's wishes had to be respected. This went on until one day I got up and walked out of his office and in leaving I told him I was finished talking about this subject and that I was not going to make a change unless there was a good reason. Like I said, the client put it in writing and never gave any reason. To make matters worse, our assistant promotions director observed the client provoke the air personality while doing his appearance. It led to an exchange of words and then the jock didn't want to return and the client got his way. Despite the assistant promotions director telling us in a managers meeting what the client had done to the jock, the sales manager wanted the air personality to apologize to the client. I told the sales manager that it wasn't going to happen. We went at it again.
Coach: I understand your feelings and reasons for your actions. So what's going on now?
PD: Well, it's a year later and the sales manager is now the market manager. The first thing he did was use a down book and blamed the afternoon-drive guy who just happened to be the person who had the run-in with the promoter. It led to him being let go, despite my efforts to keep him. Now I find out from my consultant that he has been asked to find a replacement for me. I'm pretty sure I am history. This is total nonsense and totally personal.
Coach: All I can say is, you were right. My friend, sometimes right is not the way to maneuver -- and I know some will say it's a matter of principal. However, I say let's strategically weigh this against the big picture. It is a matter of picking your battles; in the future weigh each bump in the road with a staff member and decide if this is one of those let-them-win kind of moments. When it is something that is a real problem, try and find out what the real problem is. Sometimes there are a variety of reasons and many of them have nothing to do with what really is going on. It is an acquired skill, but your reactions will have to become more strategic; head-on is not always the right course. By the way, the jock should have kept his mouth shut and called you. I always instruct personalities to stay above the fray and call me if there is ever a problem with a client at an event. But you did the right thing by sticking up for him.
PD: I hate playing politics.
Coach: I feel your pain, but I learned early on, office politics is an important key to staying employed. You have to learn the art of compromise and professional BS on things that don't matter. On the things that do matter, you need to learn how to maneuver so the outcome is what is best for the station. I hope you don't lose your job over something that happened a year ago. Keep me posted.
PD: Will do.