Chaco Canyon Consulting

Are You Thriving in
Workplace Politics…
Or Are You Being Crushed?


Some people seem to either have a natural talent…or no conscience. What can the rest of us do if we want to survive? The answer is as simple as riding a bicycle: we can learn.


Are you having Skip to the Details: How To Orderyour butt handed to you in workplace politics? Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours?

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIn my own experience, and in working with clients in my consulting and coaching practices, I've learned a lot about the tactics and strategies of workplace politics. I've packed the best and most useful of it into 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, in a compact, accessible format that reads easily and clearly.

This tip book lays out the common ploys people use in workplace politics. It tells you what to watch out for, and how to deal with it. You can read it straight through, every once in a while, or use it as a reference.

Originally published in August 2005 as 101 Secrets of Workplace Politics, this ebook has grown from 5100 words to more than 28,000 words, to include many more insights, secrets, tips and ideas. It's now bigger than Who Moved My Cheese.

Sample secrets

Here's a sample:

Credit theft is lowbrow
People who ordered this item also ordered 101 Tips for Managing Conflict.Credit theft is the trademark of the unsophisticated (and greedy) operator. He or she might look powerful, but it's probably an illusion.
Embrace Change
Change creates turbulence, and turbulence creates opportunities. Stability is for those who want to play a defensive game, and in today's environment, defense is not where you want to be.
Be funny when you want to be
Humor can make the difference between confrontation and collaboration. If you aren't funny, Download on iTunesyou can learn; if you're already funny, take care to use your talent sparingly and at the right times.
Know that workplace politics isn't a game
Sometimes we talk about "playing the game," but thinking of politics that way is self-destructive. Workplace politics isn't a game.

Skill in managing organizational politics is helpful to managers who must compete with others for resources, but it's also helpful to project managers. For instance, anyone who wants to resume or restart a paused project will quickly recognize that political skill is critical success factor.

Comments from readers

From Sam T.:
Rick Brenner's 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics offers bite-sized yet profound insight into the motivations behind people's behaviors at work and how to work with what's really going on. It's a great pick-me-up after a hard day at work or even right in the middle when things are hard and you need a new idea about how to approach it all. Thanks, Rick, for all of the work you do in this world. It makes a difference.
An anonymous reader:
Very well written and easily digested. Be prepared for an eye-opening revelation which is what you call your work experience. The different facets of the material is a tremendous reality check to gauge where you are…and where you are going in the organization. The author comes highly recommended and he bears some serious credentials. Another extremely helpful tool in your toolbox for positively and constructively navigating the turbulent sea known as organizational politics.
Carol Elliott
Rick's insights offer an unusual combination of an engineer's mind and a psychologist's intuition. Rick has helped me zero in on my own true and others' possible motivations in the workplace and keep me focused on who I really am and what I aspire to be.

Table of contents

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Practice Positive Politics

  • Politics can be constructive
  • Understand what politics is
  • There is a time and place for both pragmatism and ideology
  • Favor inclusiveness over domination
  • Shorten your time horizon
  • Abandon behaviorism and revenge
  • Narrow your own goals
  • When things turn toxic, get help
  • When a difficult conversation is ahead, prepare
  • Know your options when you're asked for a favor
  • Know how to respond to requests for favors
  • Know how to make peace

Take Responsibility, Not Blame

  • Know the difference between Blame and Responsibility
  • Know the culture you work in
  • Be attuned to language
  • Notice diagnoses
  • Notice the grumbling
  • Notice whether Blame runs downhill or uphill
  • Notice whether we blame processes
  • Notice whether CYA is a standard business procedure
  • Notice whether you apply revised policy retroactively
  • Notice whether you revise policy in response to success
  • Notice whether you have people who are "designated winners"
  • Notice whether we blame people for breaking unwritten rules
  • Notice whether people get sandbagged
  • Avoid blaming yourself
  • Treat retrospectives with care
  • Acknowledge failure — maybe
  • Never, ever, kill the messenger
  • Messenger deaths have long-lasting effects
  • Watch out for spin
  • Re-educate and reassign, but don't destroy
  • There's no way to use Blame constructively
  • Conflict isn't always what it seems

Deal with Rumors Decisively

  • Be careful how you think about rumors
  • You can't shut down the rumor mill
  • In responding to rumors, make your self-esteem your first priority
  • Manage your knee-jerk reactions
  • Don't spread rumors
  • Rumors become more damaging with age
  • Most rumors are credible
  • Packaged rumors spread more rapidly
  • Quelling a rumor is a waste of time
  • Dismissing rumors doesn't work
  • Respond constructively
  • Circulate the truth
  • Truth flies on emotional wings
  • Openness can be risky
  • Leave no voids
  • Don't wait for rumors to develop
  • People will worry if they want to
  • The First Rule of Rumor Management
  • Be prepared to reorganize

Ethics and Integrity Do Count

  • Practice ethical influence
  • As a "newbie", learn about ethics from the veterans
  • In for a penny, in for a pound
  • Trust only the trustworthy
  • Don't appeal to judges or the public
  • Accept that loyalties change
  • Avoid actions that need to be covered up
  • Behave in ways you can be proud of
  • Beware personal benefits
  • Even inaction is action
  • Tricky language is neither protection nor a valid excuse
  • Know the law, but don't abuse its protection
  • Finagling budgets to conceal trouble is trouble
  • Know the indicators of gray areas
  • Be skeptical of security precautions
  • Check politics at the door
  • Avoid exporting your troubles
  • Looking the other way is usually unsafe
  • When you look the other way, you risk involvement in discrimination
  • When you look the other way, you risk involvement in cronyism
  • When you look the other way, you risk involvement in bullying
  • When you look the other way, you risk involvement in theft or goldbricking
  • When you look the other way, you risk involvement in sexual, political or religious harassment
  • Seekers of illicit information use "holography"

Exploit Smart Tactics

  • Delay is always an option
  • Choose your battles
  • Practice the art of compromise
  • Sometimes it's best to walk away
  • Choose your dance partners
  • Make agreements explicit
  • Make exchanges contemporaneous
  • Keep loads uniform
  • Space milestones evenly
  • Milestones near deliveries are critical
  • Deliver usable results at regular intervals
  • Help the customer with the post-delivery environment
  • Expect confidences to be broken
  • Negotiate time limits for confidences
  • Negotiate a limited right to repeat confidences
  • Negotiate escape clauses for confidences
  • Don't staff the ammo dump
  • Choose your enemies carefully
  • Ask permission (and get it) before you give advice, feedback or help
  • Be funny when you want to be

Be Prepared to Lead

  • Share the credit
  • You can't control what people believe
  • Use empathy to frame messages effectively
  • Knowing when to act or speak is as important as the act or the speech
  • To lead, motivate, inspire or deter, appreciate the internal state of others
  • Know how to inspire people to achieve an immediate goal
  • Know how to inspire people to achieve a distant goal
  • Know when people are overloaded
  • Work always to improve your empathy skills
  • Reject the myth that a few firings will shape them up
  • Reject the myth that pay-for-performance is the answer
  • Reject the Strategy of the Whip
  • Do what you can to enhance retention
  • Learn how to build a trusting environment
  • Know the signs of an untrusting group culture
  • Know how to deal with "knife-edge performers"
  • Don't do virtual terminations
  • Be skeptical of indirect measurements
  • People aren't bolts of cloth
  • Leader, measure thyself
  • Measure your metrics
  • You don't always get what you measure

Know How to Face the Tough Challenges

  • Know what problem you're solving
  • Be certain that the problem you're solving is yours to solve
  • Consider what happens if you wait
  • If the problem isn't yours, whose is it?
  • Be certain that you're solving the right problem
  • Address first the smallest problem you can usefully address
  • Consider asking for help
  • Know what kind of help would help
  • Consider the confrontation option
  • Take inventory of what you already know
  • In meetings, be aware of solution-seeking
  • In problem-solving meetings, diplomacy is essential
  • Negotiate from their perspective

Practice Smart Strategy

  • Superior job performance is your foundation
  • Get a coach
  • Know that workplace politics isn't a game
  • Understand how political attack differs from routine politics
  • Political attackers have the advantage of planning
  • Political attackers have the advantage of surprise
  • Political attackers control the tempo of the exchange
  • Political attackers can control timing
  • Political attackers can choose their venues
  • Political attackers can exploit prepositioned assets
  • Political attackers are usually more comfortable with attacking
  • Think beyond precedent
  • Work hard but not too hard
  • Rest when you can
  • Acquiring resources can be a distraction
  • Don't ride point
  • Always, always have a backup plan
  • Know what to do when all your options are bad
  • Accept the bad news as good news
  • When you hit a dead end, change your tactics or strategy
  • Dogma, politics, budget and schedule tend to bias our hunt for solutions
  • Suspect first the distasteful parts of a broken solution
  • When trouble strikes, increase information distribution
  • When trouble strikes, take smaller bites
  • For first-of-kind efforts, educate everyone about the inevitability of setbacks
  • Be wary of near-completion setbacks
  • Reward honesty and failure
  • Reduce overload
  • Read
  • Know what other people are reading
  • Change your experience instead of changing other people
  • Get in touch with your "No"
  • Organizational psychopaths do exist
  • Embrace Change

Understand the Politics of Communication

  • Deliver the headline first
  • Use the "So What?" test to determine the headline
  • Deliver the bad news first
  • Choose task names and code names carefully
  • When in trouble, don't talk — deliver
  • Short schedules help perceptions
  • Don't expect breakthroughs to erase anxiety
  • Use a four-step framework when presenting to persuade
  • As presenter, don't evaluate questions
  • As presenter, stay out of the rabbit hole
  • As a virtual presenter, make special preparations
  • As a virtual presenter, beware technology
  • Know the special techniques of virtual presenters
  • When you're asked a question, let the questioner ask the question
  • When you're asked a question, make sure you understand
  • When you're asked a question, withhold derision
  • When you're asked a question, stay in bounds
  • Don't joke about serious matters
  • Know how to handle spacing out
  • Be right
  • Learn to recognize brilliant questions
  • Learn how to ask brilliant questions
  • Learn to deal with ambush questions
  • Learn to deal with leading questions
  • Learn to deal with loaded questions
  • Learn to deal with implied accusations
  • Learn to deal with pressure tactics
  • Learn to deal with cheap shots
  • Learn to deal with trap construction
  • Learn to deal with zingers
  • Know the most common dismissive gestures
  • Know some tactics for changing the subject
  • Know some tactics for ending conversations
  • Keep a working journal
  • Understand the three varieties of condescension
  • Know when to hold back
  • Know when to walk away
  • Groups have their own minds too
  • Language does count
  • Become familiar with the rhetorical fallacies

Manage Your Relationships with the More Powerful

  • Be careful about how you experience mistreatment
  • Avoid the Fundamental Attribution Error
  • When the situation is unacceptable, accept that it is unacceptable
  • When in trouble, seek support
  • When in trouble, remember that some things aren't about you
  • Base your self-esteem on yourself
  • When leaders fight, everyone feels the pain
  • A fight between leaders is a performance issue for the feuders' supervisor
  • In proximity to a leadership feud lies danger
  • In a leadership feud, you can lose (win) even if your boss wins (loses)
  • Prepare for the day when peace arrives
  • Avoid the role of fender
  • Hands-on project managers risk schedule collisions
  • Hands-on project managers have inherent conflicts of interest
  • Hands-on project managers are more susceptible to distraction
  • Hands-on project manager roles create team risk
  • Decision-makers are biased in favor of the hands-on project manager role
  • Currying favor is a corrosive tactic
  • Know the tactics of ingratiators
  • Know what to do when others curry favor with your boss
  • If your boss really is a dolt, look above
  • If your boss is a dolt, worrying won't help
  • If you're really unhappy in your job, fish or cut bait
  • To stay in a so-so job, make a commitment to it
  • Know what to do if your boss's poor performance affects yours
  • If you undertake a coup d'etat and fail, you pay
  • Managing your boss really isn't in your job description
  • What you can do to others can be done to you
  • Know and recognize the three types of promotions
  • If you're aiming for a promotion, know your real motivations
  • To get the right promotion at the right time, know your true capabilities
  • When seeking a promotion, see yourself as others see you
  • To gain promotion, clean up your act
  • To gain a promotion, attend to relationships
  • To gain a promotion in place, get known as a resource
  • To gain a promotion, document your contributions
  • For a promotion in place, know that your contributions won't change in kind
  • To gain a promotion in place, understand your employer's goals
  • If you're aiming for a promotion in place, check the resources
  • For a promotion in line, understand your employer's goals
  • To win a promotion in line, demonstrate capability
  • To win a promotion in line, be replaceable
  • To win a promotion in line, make the people you work with look good
  • To win a promotion in line, be flexible about relocation and travel
  • When you're entering as the lowest in rank, enter gently
  • As a "newbie", know the value you bring to the team
  • As a "newbie", establish credibility opportunistically
  • Know how to identify a micromanager
  • Know how to deal with a micromanaging boss
  • Know when to break the rules

Know How to Deal with the Devious

  • Your enemy might not be your enemy
  • Credit theft is lowbrow
  • Talk about credit theft
  • Credit thieves spare no one
  • Watch for blowback
  • Complexity is your friend
  • Know how to deal with the minimalist stonewaller
  • Know how to deal with the parental stonewaller
  • Know how to deal with Major-Major-Major stonewalling
  • Know how to recognize a lateral micromanager
  • Understand the tactics of the lateral micromanager
  • Know how to deal with the lateral micromanager
  • Fight back when you must
  • Beware the hypothetical trap
  • False opportunities abound
  • Beware diversions
  • Flirtation, flattery and romance are not always what they seem
  • Know how to deal with nepotism and patronage
  • Beware the non-chance chance meeting
  • Some people fly false flags
  • Trust-building isn't just for the trustworthy
  • It seems like a mistake, but it could be bait
  • Disinterest isn't always what it seems
  • Relationship-building isn't either
  • Beware the conspiracy as tactic
  • Recognize rhinestone opportunities
  • Decline diversions
  • Avoid dead ends
  • Forgo forays
  • Don't do calisthenics
  • Don't run three-legged races
  • Recognize the hit-and-run
  • Recognize the proxy target
  • Learn to recognize confidential disinformation
  • When there is a favored subordinate, make a decision
  • Beware unfair information swaps
  • The rational model of human behavior is often wrong
  • Negotiators might not be acting irrationally
  • Deceptive negotiators can use intimidation tactics
  • Deceptive negotiators can use shame-based tactics
  • Deceptive negotiators sometimes seize the drafting role
  • Deceptive negotiators can exploit the drafting role
  • Injustice for one leads to injustice for all
  • Beware the Hospital Pass
  • Anticipate alliances
  • Be wary of empire builders
  • Dividers-and-Conquerors are dangerous

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Rick BrennerWhether you're a decision maker or someone about whom other people make decisions — or both! — the right coach can make a difference in your life. I might be the right coach for you. Call me, Rick Brenner, at (866) 378-5470 for a no-cost informal chat. Sign up in November and receive two hours as a bonus. Check it out!
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