Know It All: Office Politics is Like Taxes
Office Politics Is Like Taxes!
How does anyone survive Office Politics? It’s painful and exists at the top, middle and even our friends who have just started working. Office Politics is like taxes; they never go away, you pay a big price for not paying attention and you will get nailed if you don’t play by the rules!
How do I survive office politics?
Your reputation is your guide as you build your career. Your reaction to your office culture is crucial. If you understand the culture where you work and manage your reputation, you should be ok. Office politics is a sensitivity to understanding how the system works in your office and adapting to it to make yourself shine.
In my book, The Big Sisters Guide to the World of Work, we identify 7 dwarfing habits people use in the workplace that can kill your reputation. Manage these first.
- The Apologizer – This is the person who says “sorry” in response to everything. “I’m sorry, did you say something? I’m sorry, would you mind getting off MY foot?” I’m sorry masquerades as good manners, but the literal use of the word “sorry” is accepting blame and expressing remorse. When you apologize endlessly, you may very well be undermining your own authority. Dwarfersize it by going cold turkey or using a sorry substitute “Excuse me, but”.
- The Duh Dwarf – “Donald Trump who?” “Fortune Magazine is that comic about psychic storytellers right?” “I think Wolfgang Puck is that endangered polar bear at the Chinese zoo.” The Duh Dwarf is the person who avoids reading the news and are not staying on top of what topics are trending at work, but the problem is the world is changing all the time and employers are looking for evidence that you can think for yourself, be engaging and decisive. You can’t engage in conversations if you don’t understand the basic topics so dwarfersize it by reading or listening to news daily on your commute to work and reading trade publications related to your industry.
- The Questioner – “How am I supposed to do THAT?” “How can we get that done by Friday the 13th?” “Do you really think we can afford to do this now?” Back in school we were praised for raising our hands with a good question, but do it too much and you’ll be seen as the anti-team player who just throws up obstacles in the form of questions and challenges every decision. To ask or not to ask? That is the question. Dwarfersize it by asking yourself three questions before you ask of anyone else:
- Do I need to ask this question?
- What will I gain by asking?
- Is the timing good?
Alternatively focus on asking questions that make other people look good… for example, if you know the marketing director just quadrupled the subscriber list this month, bring it up at a boardroom meeting, but if the numbers are bad, save that question for a private 1-1 solution brainstorming session. And lastly, if you see a problem, don’t point it out until you’ve figured out a solution. Then don’t ask a question, make a statement: “We need to take a serious look at the circulation figures in light of the recent dip in the economy. I recommend that we take such and such an action.”
- The Just-ifyer – “I JUST can’t get my act together!” “I’m JUST an assistant editor” “Oh that promotion, I was JUST lucky…” Many of us dwarf ourselves by JUST-ifying our achievements or we brag about what we don’t know by adding a ‘just.’ But no one will ever be impressed by your bragging about what you don’t know. So dwarfersize it by resisting the urge to broadcast your ignorance or on the flip side, catch yourself before you make a negative comment about yourself by thinking “Would I say this about my best friend?” If you wouldn’t don’t say it about yourself, no matter how funny or humble you think it is. Think of it as advertising — you JUST don’t slam your brand. Lastly, if someone gives you praise, keep your head up and say “Thank you very much.” True humility is found in simply accepting praise.
- The Overexplainer – “Ok, on the first day there was this, and then, you know, there was that, and other and the third thing, and then, of course, the whoobity boobity, ibbity bopitty boo. Do you know what I’m saying? Lemme explain myself….” My favorite of these, which I have been guilty of on more than one occasion is, the “Overexplain a Confession Complex.” She will go into epic detail about what she didn’t get done in a day, and then expound at length on why she didn’t do it.” This comes from a place of feeling not heard, fearing being misunderstood, or wanting sound more official / credible, but all it really does it make the dwarf sound insecure, condescending, defensive, or egotistical. So Dwarfersize it — don’t explain anything to anyone unless you are directly questioned; no unsolicited confessions! Plan on saying only what you have to. Know your summary statement and stop talking after you’ve made it. Most importantly become comfortable with silence.
- The Complainer – Most of us have a hard time recognizing when we’re on a doosy of a whine fest, but quick to crook our fingers at other moaners. The complainer dwarf habitually projects her inner dissatisfaction onto everyone and everything and seldom realizes it when she has crossed the line into becoming a problem herself. Complaining is an easy habit to fall into. It’s a reason to speak when you have nothing to say: “Damn it’s hot in here, are you hot?” We complain to let off steam, to get sympathy, and sometimes we do it just because its fun to indulge in a good old fashion bee-yach session but we’re not actually accomplishing anything or solving the problem, so by complaining we’re really not doing ourselves any favors. Dwarfersize it by becoming aware of the complaining you do. Take a Post-It pad around with you for a full day, and give yourself a bitch mark every time you complain. If that paper has more than three marks on it, keep doing this exercise to diminish this Dwarf before someone takes Y-O-U by the shoulders and says Enough Already! Then focus on making the first thing out of your mouth a positive statement. Positivity has a habit of catching on, so focus your attention or what you’re grateful for and you’ll attract more positivity to provide you with more fodder for expressing your positivity.
- The Take-it-personally Dwarf – This is the grumpiest dwarf of them all. I don’t know any woman who hasn’t let this paranoid Taker Of It Personally Dwarf cause her to waste a ton of time and energy second guessing herself, jumping to conclusions and torturing herself with imaginary emotional scenarios.”What did she mean by that?” “She didn’t respond to my email in 24 hours, she must want nothing more to do with me or clearly she’s not happy with my work.” “The HR department didn’t respond right away, I must not be getting that promotion.” While there are differences among each of the Dwarfish habits, they ultimately all sprout from the same place: self-doubt, fatigue, boredom, impatience, defensiveness, and the absence of personal goals.
But kick these ugly little gnomes to the curb and you’ll be on your way to being the king or queen of office politics.
I read all questions and answer as many as my 10 fingers can do with the time allotted……Please send them in on Twitter via #KnowItAll….or Info@JocelynGreenky