Office Politics: Twenty-Nine Surviving Strategies

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As Wall Street goes up, so does the pressure by your boss to produce more with less staffing. You can't wage a successful battle over a successful corporate strategy that is increasing the company's revenue. Producing more with less is a winner for most corporations because it differentiates a money-maker from a money loser. As soon as a company plans a layoff in order to effectively manage the company's resources, the stock goes up on Wall Street. Do not be surprised if you are hired to do one person's job and later it turns out to be two or three people's jobs. It is a sign of the times - swallow hard, do your best and move on.

The worst situation you can find yourself in, is to start fighting the changes and letting somebody in your company identify you as a problem because of your resistance to change. The psychological implication in addition to the stress of work may be very devastating, even to a very good worker. The solution is to position and market yourself for success on the job. Most office politics will emerge from interpersonal differences between co-workers and sometimes between workers and their boss.

Once people position and market themselves on the job, other minor problems become easier to handle. Positioning to market yourself is a winning strategy for establishing a business relationship with the company. This relationship is different from a romantic affair which carries a lot of risks. Business relationship engages the brain more than the seduction of human passion. In this way, a worker learns to give as much as he or she can afford to a company to help increase the company's production. The business relationship is established in the employee's mind and governs every aspect of the work. The trick is, the employee assumes the role of the owner and deals with the business as his or her own. An employee who has assumed the position of the owner does not wait for a chain reaction of events to act; when there is stagnation, such an employee moves on till the goal is accomplished.

An employee who has positioned to market him or herself on the job and, at the same time, has assumed the role of the owner is always an asset to the company and a winner. It's an effective strategy to help deflate job stress. The following 29 strategies will help such an ambitious worker excel on the job and deflate most interpersonal tensions involved in office politics.

1. Do your work with dedicated interest and loyalty. Be punctual at work and try your best to observe the rules and regulations of the company.

2. Never join other voices to persecute the establishment; your opinion may be presented to the boss as the only voice of opposition. Some destructive co-workers who are quick to report others never admit their role in initiating an anti-establishment sentiment. Such co-workers won't hesitate to make others look bad before the boss so they can win brownie points.

3. Improve your knowledge and professionalism on the job and if possible, be ahead of the times by reading about current research findings in your areas of expertise.

4. Be the best at what you do, no matter how small or big the job. It is not enough to just do the work, always let your work leave a mark of excellence. Remember the words of the famous Italian Zoologist Fabricius (1537-1619): "Death comes to all, but great achievements raise monuments which shall endure until the sun grows cold."

5. Do not brag about your achievement. Let your work speak for itself or let somebody else do the bragging. If you have done a good work, it will be noticed and appreciated by people who appreciate good work. Once your co-workers develop the feelings that you are bragging, you might have set up yourself for a failure.

6. Learn to get along with people who appear not to like you or whom you may not like. You can learn to work with people you don't like. Learn not to personalize problems -- it is not about you, but about work. People communicate at different levels; you don't have to be intimate to work with a co-worker.

7. Learn to know a co-worker individually and to not base a relationship on what was said by another person. Most of the initial negative attitudes developed by co-workers against an individual usually resulted from a negative notion based on somebody else's bias. Learn to know an individual; develop a unique, personal, diplomatic working relationship with that person instead of allowing prejudice to govern your opinion.

8. Never hold grudges or be vindictive -- these types of behaviors are always counter-productive. When you are angry over an issue, admit it to yourself, and then take corrective measures to rectify the problem. Once the problem is resolved, let the anger be deflated and let the problem be history; then move on. The more you bottle anger inside of you, the more you increase the chances of an emotional explosion.

9. Learn to have shorter periods of anger when aggravated and let the matter rest as quickly as possible. Anger toward a co-worker tends to adversely affect your work. Always find ways to deflate and diffuse crises on the job involving you and your co-workers, no matter who is at fault.

10. Accept your imperfections. When you make error, admit it. The cardinal sin on the job is to blame somebody else for your errors.

11. Use your errors as learning tools for education, and job improvement. This is how you turn your weaknesses to strategies for success.

12. Never join hands to persecute a co-worker or a newcomer. One of the most destructive behaviors on the job is the refusal to accept a new employee -- joining hands with others to persecute an innocent co-worker is unethical. Collective persecution of an employee is very common in a problematic working environment just because we need somebody to blame.

13. Those who persecute others are mostly the ones who do the least on the job. This is their political strategy due to their inadequacies. Many times these types excel and move up the corporate ladder, but because they lack compassion for others, their achievements are always short-lived. The only time you should present your achievements to your boss is when you are being persecuted for not doing enough.

14. Be a negotiator between feuding workers, a fire extinguisher when problems are brewing on the job. However, remember that playing this role makes you vulnerable to attacks by others who thrive on the emotional energy ignited by crisis. They act as if you are the one trying to take away their candies!

15. Learn to identify and deal with thrill seekers of crisis. Once a problem is solved, they will create another. After solving the second, third or fourth problem these chronic pleasure seekers do not stop; they will find something else wrong to yell about. Know when to time-out with such people. The rule is, as long as these people are kept busy, given numerous assignments, their energies to craft crisis or do havoc will be depleted. Don't react to these people as nuisances on the job, which chronic complainers can sometimes be. Look at them as energetic people, looking for challenges; a manager should assign them to solve the problems in question.

16. Never destroy co-workers' work or denigrate them to elevate your status. Most businesses have very strict punishment for employees destroying co-workers' work. The punishment is immediate termination! You don't have to destroy somebody else on the job to achieve your own objective - this is very unethical.

17. Do not bring personal problems to work or persecute co-workers as a reflection of your personal failures or problems. If you have problems with your spouse, seek professional help or talk to a trusted friend. Victimizing co-workers because of personal problems is not only unethical but very unprofessional.

18. Never get into a shouting match with a co-worker no matter how angry you get. When you feel you are being persecuted on the job, find a nice and diplomatic way to resolve the problems. Emotional outburst can be counter-productive on the job. Verbal confrontation can lead to other forms of physical violence.

19. Find a neutral ground to negotiate issues with the boss or co-workers. When negotiation fails, learn to compromise; when compromise fails, learn to agree to disagree. Learn to approach others about job related issues without either intimidation or being intimidated.

20. When you feel intense anger or hate towards an individual on the job, immediately look inside yourself. True enough, somebody could have created a problem for you. But the intensity of your reaction is usually based on emotional amplification by pre-existing problems. Looking inside yourself is not to encourage self persecution as much as to evaluate whether the anger is targeted towards the wrong person or situation.

21. Learn to respond without stress to stressful situations. This is not a strategy that is learned overnight; it is a skill which has to be mastered. For example, instead of getting into a shouting match with an irate co-worker, lower your voice; the aggressor may lower his or her voice to the point of sensible conversation. Learn to channel negative energies to positive outlets.

22. Improve your work ethics and spend the major part of the job time producing. It is a misconception that your loyal hard work for the company is fruitless in the absence of job incentives or rewards. Once the job is well-mastered and you have developed good work ethics, you now have a better chance of getting a job elsewhere or starting your own business on the side. Good managers usually appreciate hard-working employees, unless they are a threat to the managers.

23. Although you want to get along with everybody on the job, that may not happen all the time. Set a limit on how much you will take from an abuser. Relate problems to such a co-worker in a professional way with a neutral tone of voice. For example, if a co-worker is in the habit of yelling at you, make it clear you don't appreciate such as unprofessional style of communication. If the behavior continues, let others witness it. You can take it to the manager, but try all other diplomatic avenues to resolve the issue.

24. Never take a problem to the manager without having two or three solutions for the problem.

25. Learn to shield yourself from the emotional abuse of such people by limiting interaction primarily to work. If the situation gets too hard to handle because of chaos, ask for a transfer or look for an exit door and find a new job. Do not wait until you are completely broken down. Know the danger signs (your body will tell you) and when to quit. Dealing with "hard nuts to crack" is not easy. Such workers have compulsive obsessive behavior leading sometimes to exaggerated responses to trivial issues. These types of people either have emotional problems or are still emotionally immature. The problem in such people have been tolerated for so long that it is hard for them to change.

26. Deal with an ego-driven manager with diplomacy. Some supervisors may believe that they are better than others and that co-workers should be subservient to them. If you treat your boss as a god, you will pay a painful price because you open yourself to abuse. An effective manager will treat you with respect and you should reciprocate.

27. Be the first to try new procedures. People are generally very resistant to change. Once you rise to the occasion, many people will join you. Management is always frustrated in trying to educate people about new procedures and protocol. Many people who left their jobs because they were intimidated by computers are now returning to work and learning to use computers.

28. Know your limitations, know the limitations of your boss, do your best on the job and know when to stop pursuing an issue. Your greatest asset on the job is your motivation to achieve and produce. No matter what your job is, always let your work leave a mark of excellence.

29. Treat your customers with respect and kindness. Welcome them into the store with a smile and a friendly greeting. Customers love being recognized by an employee of an establishment or a store. They feel more comfortable to shop or do business with your company compared to when they are treated like intruders. Never complain to a customer about problems you have in getting things done, it denigrate the quality of your service.

I recommend a book, Overcoming the Invisible Crime. This book will help you learn more about office politics, crisis on the job, and the effects of job crisis on personal life. It discusses the painful agony endured by a supervisor from the hand of an abusive head of the department. It is the biography of a broken hospital manager who learns to survive despite the odds of abuses endured on the job. This book also teaches a manager about things to avoid in office politics. Overcoming the Invisible Crime is published by Lara Publications, 352 pages, $19.99. To order, call 800-599-7313 or click here for on-line order form.

by Victor Vidal, OUTCRY Magazine, March 25, 1999

Lara Publications, Florissant, MO

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