I used to smile wryly when someone would complain that they weren’t getting ahead in their career because of “politics.” Nine times out of ten, the would-be victim was socially awkward, not as skilled in their job as they believed they were, or just a plain asshole to others.
People like to work with people they like, after all, and those in power are no exception. So when the time comes to select one of the laboring masses to pull up to their rarified air, they will break a tie of equally-qualified candidates by choosing who they most like having around. Occasionally they’ll even take the second-or-third-best candidate based on technical ability, knowing they might have to share a week-long business trip with them someday, and don’t want to get rung up on manslaughter charges by that Friday.
I was, and am, on board with this as a reasonable way to operate, an unavoidable corollary of the human aspect of organizations. I understand that keeping a harmonious environment in an office, for the greater good, might require a perceived screwjob now and then.
Something that happens far more often than it should, though, is neither advisable nor excusable – insecure management penalizing their employees for not being submissive enough.