Do you feel victimized by the office politics? Do you feel people at work gang-up against you?
Priya had worked on this report all night and was excited to present it to her boss in the morning. The boss seemed grumpy but she was sure that as soon as he saw the report, he would cheer up like a lily. As she handed over the report and waited for the boss to appreciate her work, she was in for a rude shock. He blasted,’ What’s this Priya? You got the brief entirely wrong. Look at the report submitted by Rashid yesterday. It’s a fine example of quality work.’ He virtually threw the report at her face. More than the trashing of her work, what hurt her more was the comparison with a colleague. Is your boss also favoring others over you even if you produce better quality work?
Well, all I can say is – Join the ever-growing club of office politics victims. You may not be surprised to know that a majority of the employees are already a member of this club. Today, when Anand hit the coffee machine, he noticed a group of three people whispering to each other. He saw them here often. There were other such small groups of people in his office. These are typically the ones discussing office politics and often claim that they are the victims too. Some of them are and some are just there to get the inside dope on things. Feeling victimised at work sometimes early in my career, to some extent, motivated me to focus on maintaining my happiness and well-being. I have presented many such ideas and practical tools in my book – Happiness is All We Want! , published recently by Bloomsbury.
Then, who are the guys who are not the part of this club? Those are the guys who are getting promoted, doing well and going places.
Are they immune to office politics? How does it not effect them? The answer is simple – they have willfully joined the ranks of those who were supposed to be their tormentors. Remember the age-old adage – if you can’t beat them, join them.
I have some bad news for you and “I hate giving good people bad news”#. The office politics is here to stay. In fact, what you call office politics is nothing but the dynamics of any organization. Can you imagine a country, state or municipality without politics? Then, how can you have a professional company without it? Just because the people are supposed to be a bit more educated and wear expensive suits doesn’t mean they are not human. Yes, that’s the point I am coming to, politics is as human as it can get.
So, as first step, you need to stop complaining and whining about office politics (unless you do it knowingly to bluff others). Accept it as a way of life, understand that the companies run on the basis of human interactions. And as long as there are biases, attitudes and inclinations in human beings, the interactions cannot be as straightforward as that between two computers.
When a computer requests data from another machine, the latter just checks whether the former is authorized to receive the data. After checking this, it simply transfers the data in a standard format. When a human being requests data from another human colleague, the first thing latter sees is if the requester is in her good books or not. If not, she will delay the giving of data on many pretexts. When the pretexts are exhausted or there is external pressure to comply, wrong data may be given. When that doesn’t work, the data may come in an unknown or unreadable format. Finally, when all avenues of not granting the request are exhausted, the data will be shared after an inordinate delay.
So, the first learning is that you need to be in good books of as many people as possible. If you are grumpy and grudging all the time, don’t expect people around you to be helpful. Tom believed that as long as he did what was required of him, everybody was supposed to cooperate with him. He called Jenny to tell her that the boss had asked him to make a PowerPoint presentation. He needed to make it jazzy with help from Jenny. Everybody in the office knew that Jenny’s formatting skills in PowerPoint were legendary. There was only one problem – Jenny hated Tom as he had snubbed her multiple times in meetings on technical points. She replied,’ Yeah sure, I will help you but today I am busy with my project, may be tomorrow.’ Tomorrow never came and Tom had to submit an awkward looking presentation. I am not saying that one should not be assertive but there is a way of calling a spade a spade. If you are tactless in your handling of other people, you will pay for it. Too much complaining? Its time to learn the skill and improve your emotional intelligence.
‘I am an introvert by nature. I don’t like to spend time with my colleagues,’ Jacob told his wife, Kim.
Kim was smarter. She suggested,’Look, you lost the right to be an introvert as soon as you came out of your mother’s womb. If God wanted you to be inside forever, that’s where you would be sitting now.’
Jacob got the point. Spending a healthy amount of time with colleagues, networking and having some fun is not wastage of time. It helps you know them better and develop your own likeability index, if you will. Next time, you need to get some work done by a colleague, you can use that understanding of their personality.
Most bosses get the work done by using raw power endowed upon them by the company. But many times you need to get work done by people who are not obliged to work for you. If you know people around you better, there are better chances that you can offer a workable give and take. Rather than asking Jenny,’ Can you do this as it has been told by the boss?’, Tom could offer to share his Korean take-away lunch with Jenny if he knew that she had a weakness for Korean food. Of course, during the course of lunch, he could slip in,’ I am having some difficulty formatting that presentation, won’t you help me?’ I leave the answer to your imagination.
One of my LinkedIn followers asked me,’ But how does one claim full credit for the work done?’ Indeed a tough question. This guy found himself surrounded by savvy people, who always managed to steal the credit away from him. On a little probing, I understood the problem. He was doing the work and believed that the accolades would come walking to him. Guess what, there were too many people on the way. So, one needs to be alert at work.
Alertness is not limited to working hard but needs to extend to keep communicating at all levels. In my experience, the noisy vessels, though empty, take away most of the credit in modern organizations. That’s unfortunate but true. The secret – noisy people communicate with everyone. More senior the other guy, the noisy person increases the noise level further. It is irritating for the co-workers to see this drama but it works. And it is not likely to change soon.
So, if you are already a sincere worker, you need to learn to create some noise around you. If you just lie low and produce quality work, in most cases, people will just walk over you. No one cares for the machine that works well all the time. At the cost of repetition – stop whining about it. That’s the way things are. Unless you are born in Royal Family of England, you do what works – make some noise. Keep working but make some noise. PLEASE!
Simple tips for making noise:
- Always keep a list of top three things you are working on. Understand how your work fits into what the company is trying to do.
- Give updates to your boss, when he doesn’t ask for one. If you wait for him to ask, it means you are hiding under the table.
- Do the same for your skip level boss, though tactfully as your immediate boss may not like it. It needs to be verbal updates most of the time. Emails will go in trash or come back to you with a CC to your own boss. OOPS!
- Every time a CXO level person or any senior passes by, try to strike a conversation. They invariably ask,’ What’s keeping you busy?’ Your answer is ready. Do the same in the elevators, rather than scratching your head or grinning as if you are getting married right there.
- Follow your company’s seniors on social media. More and more senior managers are sharing their thoughts on internal and external social media. Comment on their blogs or articles.
- Be there at most formal or informal get-togethers. Even if you can’t afford to be there for the whole time, drop in strategically when all the seniors are likely to be there. Say hello to all, one by one, as if it were a high school project. Strike light conversation. It need not be about work. Make your presence felt and then you can very well get lost.
- Do not hang with a group of cribbers all the time, even if you want to earn some sympathy yourself. One gram of attention from a CXO is better than a ton of sympathy from another loser. Hanging with cribbers all the time makes you one. It also brands you one.
If you work in a team, learn to share the credit gracefully. Be alert and make enough noise so that you are noticed even if as a part of the team. Remember, you only wish to share the credit with the whole team and claim what is rightfully yours. Trying to be extra-noisy and claiming the full credit, specially if you are not skilled at it, can backfire big time.
If you adopt such behavior all through the year, your feeling of being a victim of office politics should disappear to a large extent. It will not eliminate all the biases and issues but you will feel better. The management will find it hard to ignore you. In short, there is no substitute to becoming savvy, alert and communicative at work.
My book Happiness is All We Want! aims to help you be happy wherever your are and successful in whatever you do. It is available on Amazon all around the world.
#This is a dialogue from movie – The Matrix.
A seeker and explorer in the quest for lasting happiness, health and well-being. An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. Has been a senior banker with large global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and ANZ Bank. Working in these demanding global institutions with a gruelling schedule and plenty of business travel. Was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. Learnt and practiced many wellbeing tools and techniques to focus on his own well-being while balancing the demands of a high-profile career and a lovely family.