This is a difficult topic, because so many people are so passionate about it. Honestly, some of that passion is well founded, while some is founded on irrational fear and hyperbolic beliefs. In this blog, I am hoping to address all of the hot button issues. I am going to take a deep dive into this world and hopefully provide some insight that will be helpful to so many who are lost. Don’t let your lack of self-awareness or emotional thoughts hijack you as you navigate this complex political environment. Listen to the simple pointers below, and you’re guaranteed to have success.
Click Bait Alert!
No, I am not talking about US Politics. I have no interest in entering that arena.
It’s a silly place.
I am talking about Office Politics.
No matter where you work from the local grocery store to a high paying corporate job, whether you know it or not, you are part of an intricate and often complicated political system. Navigating this system and understanding where you fit into it can be a tool for your success. Of course, this assumes that you are good at your job, because political affiliation can only protect you for so long if you suck. So, don’t suck.
The players. The first step in political success at work in understanding the players. While they may vary depending on the industry, I have found that they normally fall into these categories, which I have ranked in importance highest to lowest.
- I am a boss.
- Big Man / Woman on Campus
- Golden Child
- Coattail Riders
- The Executives
The executives are the most important part in the political system and the easiest to recognize (usually because they are executives by title). These are the people that KNOW they are in charge and KNOW that the decision is ultimately up to them. If you have interactions with the executives the number one priority you should have is to establish trust and consistency. You want the executives to know that you are going to consistently do you job at a high level within the time frame given every time. More often than not, the work that executives do fall into two categories. One, strategic planning and thinking for the future and two, solving problems or messes that arise at a high level. You want to do your best to be part of the problems or messes at a high level, unless you’re part of the solution. Normally until you’re at a high level yourself, interactions with the executives are few and far between, which is why consistency is so important.
Lifers can exist in any of the categories, but they get their own as well, because they are the second most important people in the political system. A lifer is anyone who is viewed by the organizational culture as having been there for a long time. For some companies that are newer and smaller, that could be five or more years, for other more established companies it could be fifteen or twenty years. Either way, these individuals have been there for a while and they do not shy away from showing it. That’s the dead give away of a lifer, merely by the fact that they hang their hat on the time they have spent with the company. Usually this means they are not the best employee (or else they wouldn’t care), but for some reason or another they have decided to stick around and live in mediocrity for years.
NEVER EVER cross a lifer. They live for the opportunity to throw their weight around since they have known (insert exec name here) for (insert a long period of time). Example: You’ve been asked to do something a new way, but the lifer insists on doing things the old way. Unless you are this person’s direct supervisor, do not push the issue. You will be met with: “I’ve been doing it this way for ten years and it works fine, wait until I tell this exec I have know for fifteen years that you are trying to change shit up”. Now you have gotten yourself into a ‘Doot da doo” and now YOU are the subject of a problem or mess that comes to the attention of the executive.
Always, always, always go through the lifer’s direct supervisor for changes to their work rhythm. Then all the heat is off your plate, and if they are non-compliant it’s the supervisors’ problem. Odds are the lifer knows about the decision for the change and is just looking to take their anger out on someone.
Change is hard.
- I am a Boss
Honestly, I wrote this blog just to use this GIF. These are my least favorite people. Just because you have some direct reports or an elevated title they think they are now in charge of everyone. Their the one in the meetings that are constantly inserting themselves in everyone else’s business and often trying to improve other groups rather than focusing on their own.
This is where you can go on the offensive. Do not be rude, and do not be condescending, but if you can point when this person steps out of bounds (especially if they are a peer), it will help keep them at bay AND it will gain you respect and trust in your work group.
No one likes the person who’s throwing their weight around, because odds are they are doing it to deflect examination of their group. Often times, it’s their group that is messing up and they are looking to get ahead of it. Never point out that they are messing up, then you yourself are being a BOSS. Instead, kindly point out that the area in question is led by this other person in the team, and you’re sure they can provide some color around the situation and the plan of attack.
Now if that person cannot speak to that, that’s their problem, but at least you’ve checked the boss and shown your peers you will stick up for them.
- Big Man / Woman on Campus
This is another one that is fairly easy to pick up, and one that I have found I can fall into at times. It’s something you want to be self-aware of, because it’s only a bad thing if the perception is wrong. This person is either a slacker, or a wonderful resource. The person who’s a slacker is usually on their way to evolving into a lifer if their character and charisma carries them to that world. The person who is a resource on the other hand, got to this position by being helpful and a team player. Those are the people that you always want around on a team, very much like the “glue guy or gal”.
There are definitely perks to being this person, just be aware that you don’t want to abuse the role, thus falling into the slacker category.
- Golden Child
If you are one, you know it and the pressure is real. If you work with one, odds are they’re super annoying. Having been the golden child at times, I would like to say that if there is one who’s annoying you, odds are they are constantly stressed. For me, once I have set the bar at a certain level, you need to be consistent and thus are constantly trying to maintain the same level of productivity. It’s stressful, but if you’re in an organization in which you’re trying to climb the corporate ladder, it’s not a bad place to be. However, if you’re not looking for the pressure, just be sure to set expectations where you want them to be. Under promise and over deliver at a rate in which you’re still perceived as high performing, but you’re not going to burn yourself out.
If you are working with the golden child, never try and bring them down. It’s not only a shitty thing to do, but you’ll be causing a riff with someone that may be in your peer group or a supervisor down the road. Continue to do your job, but if you’re on a project with them, ensure you’re being helpful and that your help is credited. The good news about most GCs is they have enough glory on their own, where they don’t need to steal credit from others. Those that do are in the last category and are the scum of the earth.
- Coattail Riders
These are the laziest of people. Yet they survive politically by either claiming someone else’s work, or befriending someone with political clout (like a BMOC, GC, Lifer). These people could easily be successful at their jobs on their own if they spent as much time kissing people’s asses, or telling convoluted stories on their own work. The thing is, these people are born in school. They are the reason why everyone hates group work. Constantly trying to do as little as possible, while being the most critical and hardest to work with in every way. The best way to manage these people? Avoid them. If you get stuck with one though, always try and assign them something and have it in writing. It’s easier to hold them accountable, and you don’t have to worry about them riding on your shit.
If however you find that this person is your boss. Find a new job. Your boss should be doing everything they can to showcase your talents, not claiming credit for your work. It’s my recommendation that you have a zero-tolerance policy and only work for people who truly have your best interest in mind.
If you have read this far and liked what you heard, like the post and follow me on Instagram and Twitter @IntellectNebula! If you didn’t like it, comment why!
Thanks for reading!