Office politics.... AGGGH! We ran an anonymous post last week from someone FED UP with it. At its best it's remembering to make everyone a cup of tea. At its worst it's unpleasant backstabbing that can drive people out of a job. We crowdsourced some coping strategies. Here they are.
by Dan Slee
I’ve worked in brilliant offices and I’ve worked in an office that became an absolute cesspit of backstabbing. There were two factors in common. Firstly, leadership. Secondly, the prospect of job losses. In the first office, there was good leadership and a minimal chance of job losses. In the second, there was no leadership and they seemed to quite enjoy pitting people against each other and stirring things.
My advice would be to join a union. It’s having someone to call on who will be in your corner and if needs be make representations for you.
Work to live not live to work
"I work in an office where the leadership are very young and are continually trying to prove themselves which comes off as “trying too hard”. By proving themselves that are undermining the whole staff but “he/she who dares to challenge” gets work taken away from them, gets sidelined and excuses are made in senior team meetings why individuals are becoming “incompetent” because they dared to challenge.
"My advice - work out how to manage egos and how to deal with “peacocking” - I also find the mantra “I work to live, not live to work” really helps find me direction."
Don't be afraid to move on
"Don’t be afraid to move on...if you can. This type of behaviour - instigated by the head of department and subsequently mirrored by colleagues keen to curry favour - drove me to leave my previous role."
Office politicians are actually quite weak
"Where I work it is more subtle, particularly with some managers at the divisional manager level (£62k+). There is a lot of very self-serving behaviour which is usually exhibited through a lack of information sharing which tends to set up people below them to fail. I’ve been here a long time and now it is evident to me that this reveals a vulnerability and a lack of self-confidence in the person doing it. They are scared of looking bad, so will create issues for people lower down the food chain for people to deal with, which don’t come back and bite them on the backside. There are a lot of people in Teflon suits here. Nothing sticks to them, but they spend an awful lot of time sweating.
Join a union
Joining a union can be a godsend in these kinds of situations. Of course it helps to have someone in your corner but it also gives you opportunities to meet a whole set of other folk in your workplace who you might not normally get to know. Having more friendly faces around helps you keep some perspective on whatever’s going on in your little team bubble and makes the office an easier place to be every day.
Sympathy for the middle managers
"As a middle manager with an ever increasing workload, it can be a nightmare juggling expectations from above and below my level as well as from councillors. We’re having a joint meeting of the senior and middle managers soon to discuss “The Squeezed Middle” which will be useful as an information sharing forum but I struggle to see that anything will change as a result of it because most of our senior managers are under tremendous pressure to do more too. It’s a case of get your head down and get through it. In a recent survey 5 out of 20 middle managers rated their feeling of pressure (1 lowest and 10 highest/suffocating) as 9 or 10."
People don't leave jobs, they leave managers
This statement is mostly right in my experience, although it can be the case that the wider business situation is the main driver of the politicking and hence the departures.
I worked for a chap who didn’t want to make friends with people in case they took advantage. He escalated to full on control freak too quickly from a standing start, which simultaneously stifled those who were innovative and created a culture of fear surrounding any more subtle attempts to change the underlying culture. This underlying culture was itself unhelpful to the business, but served the needs of the shop floor who were fully employed and paid every Friday regardless of the progress of the company.
I got out before they were sold on to asset strippers and made two thirds of the workforce redundant. Point-and-shout boss didn’t make it either, partially because he wasn’t very good at managing effectively, and partly because of the case HR was compiling against him after someone complained. I heard he took a two week “sales trip” after a particularly explosive confrontation on the shop floor and was never seen again.
My solution was to walk. I told them I had a better offer and walked out. I had nothing in reality, but picked up work a week later. A month after that I was back doing what I was good at, working for much more integrated people who were all signed up to the success of the team. Much better.
Dan Slee is co-creator of comms2point0.
Picture credit: Smithsonian / Flickr