Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Office Politics Part I

I was chatting with a friend last night and she suggested we do complimentary blogging on Office Politics." I suspect her approach will be very insightful for me - since she is a positive and outgoing kind of person and is a lot more successful than I am in dealing with Office Politics. See

Definition of the Problem: Part I

On a personal level, I have always struggled with being able to maintain my own integrity while playing well with and bending to the perceptions of others. I also have difficulty with making an ASS of myself by jumping to conclusions, not reading e-mails completely, and not giving folks the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, I am rarely deceived by people. I seem to notice their failings long before others do. I am also an introvert, so it goes strongly against my nature to socialize just for the sake of climbing the office ladder by spending time with people I don't particularly like. That doesn't mean I don't socialize; I just limit it to the folks that I respect and appreciate and who most likely respect and appreciate me. It's not because I think I am better than anyone else, I just don't like exposing myself when I don't have to. I am what is called an amiable driver, so I am goal oriented and push hard, but I'm nice about it.

You'll find "positive" approaches to politics in tomes such as "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie and The Art and Science of Negotiation by Howard Raiffa , or more "cynical" approaches in The Art of War by Sun Tzu or The Prince by Machiavelli.

The positive approach doesn't spend much time on how to resolve moral dilemmas resulting from acting "as if." There is very little advice on how to deal with unproductive people a la Peter Principle. And there is little acknowledgement of negativity at all. Practicing this approach leaves me feeling fake and disingenuous. I vacillate between disgust and envy at some people's ability to wield this approach successfully.

The cynical approach is more pragmatic. It suggests that you do what needs to get done to accomplish your goals: the ends justifies the means or the contribution to the greater good justifies the exploitation or suppression of the individual.

I take more naturally to the cynical approach up until it involves manipulation, lying to others,
distorting the truth. In other words I am wary, questioning, and allow others to earn my trust.
The positive approach by acts of omission can result in the same. It focuses on what I can do to influence others to do what I want or to see things my way.

Two things before I start thrashing out a middle road:

1. Research has show that Depressive (Negative) people have a better perception of their own limits and of reality

2. Research has shown that positive reinforcement is more productive than negative reinforcement

(I really don't feel like looking up the sources for this - but please feel free to investigate on your own)

The trick is to blend these together without losing an honest sense of self and attaining a positive approach to dealing with office politics. I am hoping to develop an approach that will work for me.

Definition of the Problem: Part II

Oh dear! I've come all this way and forgotten to define Office Politics. How funny! Guess I better do that first.

1. Trying to present yourself or a problem in the best possible light, even though there are serious issues. In other words, SPIN.

2. Avoiding blame for any issue for which one is responsible

3. Pleasing the people in power by telling them what they want to hear

4. Desire for or maintenance of authority that exceeds one's ability

5. Seeking greater influence over those in authority for personal gain or gratification

6. Taking credit for other people's work

7. Use of non work related abilities to gain favor: ability to party, snob, and other un-mentionables

The impact of self serving political behavior creates a lot of stress on hardworking folks that are doing their job well and mostly don't engage in Office Politics. They end up picking up the loose ends, putting in extra effort to meet unreasonable deadlines, and scrambling to make things work after the fact. Unfortunately, this response ends up enabling these political beings' self serving behavior and does nothing to discourage it.

To be continued tomorrow..... I won't read Jeri's post until I finish.


  1. Man, I must well and truly SUCK at "Office Politics." Your definition was like a laundry list of things that get me wrapped around the axle.

  2. Great post!!! And so true. I hate office politics!