It’s the age old drama. How nice would it be if everyone was so nice at work. That would really make my day.
After a long time searching, you’ve finally landed that job. A dream job or something that came to rescue you in the nick of time. Either way, you are very thankful and relieved, and then you start thinking,…. bits and pieces of worry start making their way into your head. What is this company like? What are the people like,.. from the boss to the workers? Most importantly, can I make it here and how long will the good times last? Day in and day out of the office, the newness is bound to wear off and you’re soon feeling part of the rat race again.
It’s fairly easy for even a fresh jobseeker to become complacent,.. even in a new job, blindsided by our own misplaced expectations of perfection. The young employee must realise that there is no perfect workplace and politics live everywhere. This is an unfortunate reality and it comes with the territory.
To be fair, new co workers can be a breath of fresh air and will enhance you but the ones who whisper and talk about the company, their colleagues and their boss in a critical and negative light, this then becomes cumbersome but it’s not that hard to navigate your way through. Sometimes, you might be “invited” to join in and you hear the comments that seem harmless and yet makes a bit of sense to you and you’re tempted to weigh in your opinion.
Complacency and Insecurity, the root of Office Politics.
A good majority of people come onto this category, even so now in the pandemic era. There are people who basically want to be first in everything and for some it’s not just about money but more than that, it’s about having power. People basically don’t want to be on the short end of the stick,.. to lose (Therein lies the problem) which is different to being professionally assertive with character. They can be overly consumed by things that happen at work rather than working to get things done. Therefore if you are not prepared to understand this, the strife and negativity generated by problematic colleagues may end up consuming you and you end up being part of the politicking group as well. Be well informed now that your boss is very well trained and experienced to notice this very very quickly. So here are some insights that can help prepare you for the road ahead.
The anatomy of Office Politics.
Office Politics are basically people being insecure, complacent and it’s even a habit or lifestyle choice. As a result they end up using the people around them to fish out information, patronise the boss for promotion and salary. They also busybody themselves into other people’s area of work. The goal is to be valued or to be at the top.
Subtle movement and communication, the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Watch out for this. A colleague comes to you and complains to you about another. The complaint could be about your manager or the boss himself. You decide to trust and share some of your frustration. He or she seems sincere in wanting to help or listen but you have no way of knowing that. What you’ve shared in confidence may be used against you by the same person. A wolf in sheep’s clothing as they say. This is a big no-no. Never ever complain about anyone especially your boss to another colleague. Sometimes, the worse things are said in the nicest ways.
Pushing their jobs or decisions to someone else.
Another way to spot dangerous politickers is when there are small team meetings. There’s always this one person who will tell another colleague to go and tell the boss decisions or information that he could deliver himself. There’s always a consistent push from this one person, to ask for things like,
“Ask boss lah, is Monday an off day?” “Tell boss lah, that John is always a few minutes late for work.”
There’s no reason why you should get involved in this. Don’t they know how to talk to boss themselves, and John’s business is none of your business. Just ignore their requests.
There are also those who want to “check” on you by sending messages to their friends, (but not to the HR) highlighting some doubts about you. They have their private Emails and WhatsApp groups. These are people who try these subtle methods to have some action taken against you but not directly by them but by those in authority. These are the one that carry “a can of worms” haunting the office and creating fear. Their subtlety is almost, I would say “professional”.
Intimidators and Sweet talkers.
This one can be a difficult one to discern. It takes some experience but the new jobseeker may not have much choice but to go with the flow. Just remember who you’re taking orders from. It’s not wise to ignore your own line manager and spend time on other people’s work. For this, you have to refer to the HR or your Job Description. Having said that, this usually occurs in smaller companies where the staff size is much smaller and there’s nobody else to do the job. Intimidators usually go for the middle manager and not the newbies. Fresh graduates in their first job will have to learn and go with the flow and tolerate this bunch taking it as a learning experience.
Other managers asking for your time and assistance without the knowledge of your immediate superior.
Don’t be judgemental. Always be willing to help another manager but never ever blindside your immediate manager by taking tasks from another manager from another department. Your manager will be caught by surprise and that’s not a good thing. Be polite and inform your manager first by calling or emailing and cc the other manager as well. This is handling people professionally. Your manager will appreciate that respect. Even if the other manager is a known politicker, you can channel your professionalism and get the job done. Just make sure you time yourself and create a detailed report of what was done. Then, update your manager by email. This is important as when your manager is questioned by his boss, he can provide your report as proof. You might even benefit in the end if the job was somewhat difficult and you did it.
So that is essentially it. You cannot stop politics as long as you’re dealing with people. Learn the art of navigation.
That being said, how do you set yourself apart from politickers and brand yourself as a valuable and capable staff? Here are some extra tips to consider.
1. Be the best specialist in your work and more.
By being a go to person for problem solving, you suddenly become a crucial team player to everyone. Besides that, the quality of work is impeccable, professional and outstanding. While a lot of people are good in what they do, there are some things that they can’t wrap their heads around. This is where you can identify the pain points in the work process and most of the time, there are always two main areas. Computer work which take up a lot of time and communication PR and customer service work including writing. Consistent delivery of quality work will earn you the trust and confidence of your peers and they may seem paralysed even if you took a day off. They’ll be glad you showed up for work. Learn to be the one that can take that role. As Bruce Lee said, “Be water my friend”.
2. Cementing your authority and ownership
A lot of people are afraid to show what they can really do for fear of more work. They’d rather clock in and clock out – an ordinary worker. But they really know how to complain in true Malaysian fashion.
No ownership here so no investment from the employer as well. Don’t you think it’s time to be unafraid and break the barriers of such silly fear? Where can one expect to go with such a mindset? The answer is “Just around here and no further”.
Don’t you think your boss will give you more freedom, independence and trust to do the work. With this, you can begin to build your authority and ownership of your role. You boss won’t identify you as one of the politickers but will come to depend on you as a pillar of his business.
So come now. Learn to go with the flow. Navigating office politics is a specialised skillset and it’s not for the weak of heart but you can learn it. Just don’t throw in the towel and resign just because of it.
In his bestselling book “Extreme Ownership”, former US Navy SEAL Jocko Willink says the following:
“ In the military, the best leaders and the best troops were the ones who took ownership of everything in their world. Not just the things they were responsible for but for every challenge and obstacle that impacted their mission. When something went wrong, they cast no blame. They made no excuses. They took ownership of the problem and fixed it. You can implement this attitude as well, not only in your job but in your life. Let other people blame their parents, their boss or the system. Let weaker people complain that the world isn’t fair. You are the leader of your life. Take ownership of everything in it.”
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