Assignment 3 – Planning

For Assignment 3 we have to choose between doing a ‘mirror’ or ‘window’ series of images. For the ‘mirror’ option we are to choose a community that we are already part of, something that takes up a large amount of our time. For the ‘window’ option we are to become part of a community that we don’t know much about and tell their story with the aim of becoming an insider.

As my time is eaten up with work and studies I have elected to do a ‘mirror’ on my work place. I work at a small university. With the research that I have done thus far on the corporate environment – and there really doesn’t seem to be very much out there – I am particularly inspired by Brian Griffin’s work. I like the tension and quirkiness of his group portraits with the mixture of various gazes – so very unconventional for the corporate portrait! While researching gazes last night I came across a few paintings that also employ this mix of direct, internal and averted gazes like Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, Jan Steen’s The World Upside-Down, Pieter Claesz Soutman’s Cloveniers Haarlem and Ferdinand Bol’s Governors of the Wine Merchant’s Guild.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt

As with any corporate environment, universities also have the inevitable office politics and it is this concept that I would like to explore in my assignment. How best to depict power and hierarchy, passion and political behaviour and “tribal conflicts” within a university structure is something that is going to require quite a bit of thought.

The Mindtools website has a useful article on dealing with office politics with some pointers that I may wish to explore further:

Re-Map the Organization Chart

Office Politics often circumvent the formal organization chart. Sit back and watch for a while and then re-map the organization chart in terms of political power.

  • Who are the real influencers?
  • Who has authority but doesn’t exercise it?
  • Who is respected?
  • Who champions or mentors others?
  • Who is “the brains behind the organization”?

Understand the Informal Network

Once you know who’s who in the organization, you have a good idea of where the power and influence lay. Now you have to understand the social networks.

  • Who gets along with whom?
  • Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
  • Who is involved in interpersonal conflict?
  • Who has the most trouble getting along with others?
  • What is the basis for the interrelationship? Friendship, respect, manipulation?
  • How does the influence flow between the parties?

Mindtools.com

I know the answers to most of these points as I have been with the university since its inception in Vancouver and have had the opportunity to observe a lot of comings and goings over the past ten years. My aim is to use these pointers as building blocks and see where I go from there.

Reference List

MindTools Editorial Team Dealing with Office Politics Navigating the Minefield [online] MindTools.com. Available at: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_85.htm [Accessed 10 January, 2017]

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