House of Cards

I have spent the last few evenings cringing in the sofa while watching House of Cards with my husband. Yes, it is an old series. No, we are not super hype and do not watch series when they air for the first time on television. And Yes, we pay for the ones that we watch.
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It is with this feeling of wanting to wriggle myself into the cushions of the sofa and hide from embarassment, that I watch Franck’s tireless tricks to get to the top. For those of you who haven’t seen the series, Franck is the main character and he aims at becoming President of the United States (I confirm, he has no problem with his self confidence). It really is like building a house of cards, and during every episode you almost expect it to fall apart, if it wasn’t for the fact that we are only at the beginning of the series. And of course, I enjoy watching it.
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Still, I say to myself that once, surely, he must have gone into politics because he was convinced about something that he thought was right, because he wanted to fight for a cause, or make something better.
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I know I am extremely naive. Or at least, hopelessly optimistic. I would like to keep believing that people are driven by wanting to do good, or wanting to make a difference. Not only by wanting to be in power. I have realised though, that this is far from being the case. It doesn’t matter if we talk politics or corporate careers.
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We haven’t gotten very far into the series, only to Russo being offered an opportunity to become Governor. He was elected thanks to a bunch of workers at a shipyard, which he later closes because he owes Franck. Now he is totally dependent on Franck to get to the position of Governor, a position which in the end may not even be something he is suited for, or may not even want deep down, but which Franck has convinced him that he does. Because this serves Franck’s purposes.
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Anyone working in a corporate environment has probably already seen what power, or the promise of power and/or a good career, can do to people.
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Take the normal guy (statistics speak for the guys, I’m sorry) who joins a company for a regular job. You can argue he doesn’t join that particular company because it is his dream employer, but because he needs a job. He is set to do a good job, and deliver good work. Then, he changes jobs, to something which is highly visible, and comes with high pressure and a lot of face time in the office.  It means late nights and less private life, including with his family. He can’t see his children more than on week ends, but is so tired that in the end he doesn’t want to do much with either family or friends. But, he is willing to take that because then he is visible to the Big Boss. And this might earn him an even higher and more visible position later on. Yet, he is compromising his social and his family life.
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You could ask yourself if the way to the top is one you’d really like to take on? It could start to feel pretty lonely. Then again, it seems that this question is one which is more often asked by women, than by men… Read more of the blog, there will be more about this later on.
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Of course, how you change as you move higher also depends on personality, but not only. It also depends on the environment you are in. Many people rise to become bosses and remain true to themselves, meaning they manage their relation to visibility by the Big Boss with relative calm, they take it upon themselves to find a new “work-life-balance”, and they remain nice guys and girls in whom people have confidence. After all, a boss with a balanced life and who enjoys the confidence of his team members is really the best boss (in my opinion). Others become all stressed out, play one role with their higher management and another to their teams. Some even blame their teams for missed targets when criticized (Yes, really! I heard about this a while ago while having a discussion over lunch.). Then again, this all boils down to personality, and integrity. But it is not only that. Remaining as you have always been is much easier in an environment where confidence and transparency is encouraged from the start.
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Look at Russo and the Capitol Hill that is described in House of Cards. Remaining true to yourself would be a challenge to anyone in that type of environment.
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Those who are worth an award are the ones who remain true to themselves regardless of the situation so that if, and when, the house of cards eventually falls, they know that they have not had to compromise their integrity.
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