10 ways to fail miserably in office politics
“Office politics,” says Boston-based Karen Dillon, “is impossible to avoid. But it’s manageable if you know what not to do. As the former editor-in-chief of harvard business review magazine and author of HBR Guide to Office Policy, Dillon offers a multitude of accessible and very useful approaches to avoid being overwhelmed by unpleasant behavior in the workplace.
I asked him, “What are the worst things I could do when faced with the madness at work of my boss or colleagues?”
1. Take everything personally when someone talks about you or criticizes your ideas. Smoke!
Consequences: By doing this you are assuming that anyone who dislikes, competes with, or in any way hinders your accomplishments is trying to bring you down. You can drive yourself crazy by doubting who is an ally, instead of focusing your energy on doing a good job.
2. Become the worst version of yourself! Get caught up in competition with a peer – or think the boss has a pet (but it’s not you). Spend an amazing time obsessing over the unfairness of it all.
Consequences: You are so excited – obsessed – on what you consider to be an injustice that pervades your personal life at home. It can threaten the stability of your marriage, not being the parent you want to be, the friend you want to be, as you wallow in misery.
3. Think only in terms of yourself. When something negative happens to you at work, immediately think about how it affects you personally, but never stop to determine if others are affected as well.
Consequences: By only thinking about how something affects you, the opportunity to collaborate with peers in ways that help improve the workplace for everyone is lost. You can have a coworker who is a bully or a hyper-competitive peer. While it is normal for this to feel personal, in reality it affects other people as well. Think beyond yourself.
4. Micromanage those who report to you. Hover over their desk, their projects and never trust them to do a good enough job.
Consequences: These people will eventually lose all respect and no longer want to work with you. You are preventing them from growing, becoming more useful to you and the business, and profiting from their work. This behavior may reveal more of your insecurity and fear of failure than their competence. You might benefit from training – as micro-management is often the result of not knowing how to support the people who work under your direction.
5. See yourself as a “friend” of your boss rather than a direct report. Blur the lines between personal and professional. Over-share personal information or opinions about others at work. Suppose your boss is still supporting you.
Consequences: By hitching your wagon to a star, you leave yourself vulnerable if that person ever leaves the company or falls out of favor. Your peers may come to resent you.
7. Align yourself with a certain group of people who are very exclusive in who they allow entry. Always go to lunch together and have jokes that you don’t share with others.
Consequences: You will be seen by others in the company as a snob and never matured beyond the level of a high school student. You miss opportunities to grow and collaborate. When the power dynamics change – and they almost always will – you will be left out of the right opportunities.
8. Never have a difficult conversation.
Let’s say you have a disagreement with a colleague, or you feel that your work has not been sufficiently credited, or you want to speak up and say that you do not agree with the decision that has been made. , but you don’t! Instead, your anger flies away in private, and you never take the opportunity to try and express what is bothering you.
Consequences: If you never develop the skills to deal with conflict constructively, eventually people will stop respecting you. Some of the most successful professionals are those who find a way to overcome conflict without making it personal. Don’t try to respond to conflict when you are angry and excited. At a minimum, you probably won’t be able to express yourself well in these times.
Take some time to calm down, ask yourself if your reaction is reasonable, then write down or practice what you are going to say. If you have a trusted colleague or friend, steer clear of the situation and see if he thinks you are justified in your response. Think how much better you would respond to someone who comes to you with thoughtful concern rather than the white heat of anger.
9. Assume your personal social media posts won’t affect your work.
Consequences: Anything you say in public will end up coming back to your job. Act on it, or you might regret it. For example, the newly appointed editor of Teen vogue, a prestigious and important job at the magazine, recently had to quit before she even started the job due to earlier pop-up comments she made on social media when she was younger.
10. Quit a job you love because of office politics.
Consequences: Using good listening skills and dealing with difficult problems generally leads to understanding and harmony. If you make a good faith effort to figure out what is wrong and fail, at least you have tried, and then you can quit.
Dillon’s book is like taking a drink from a magical bottle that gives the reader insight and maturity. If I had had it when I first started out in the workforce, my foot would have felt so much better for all the times I does not have insert it in my mouth!
Lawyer, author of “You and the Law”
After attending Loyola University Law School, H. Dennis Beaver joined the Kern County Attorney’s Office in California, where he created a section on consumer fraud. He practices law in general and writes a column in a syndicated newspaper, “You and the Law”. Through his column, he offers free help to readers in need of practical advice. “I know it sounds cheesy, but I love that I can use my education and experience to help, just to help. When a reader contacts me, it’s a gift.”