Workplace politics is an amorphous mystery to many of us, in part because we lack some simple tools. Here's Part II of a little catalog of ten widely applicable tactics. See "Ten Tactics for Tough Times: I," Point Lookout for February 1, 2006, for more.
- Am I solving the right problem?
- Even if you solve the problem, your solution might not be useful unless you solve the right problem.
- A risk of this tactic is inappropriately assuming responsibility for problem definition. Focus only on the portion of the problem definition space that truly is yours.
- What's the smallest piece I can usefully address?
- Often what looks unitary from afar is actually composite close up. Once you get into it, you can clearly see its separate parts.
- When you can finally discern the pieces, focus on the easy parts. If one of them feels like a good fit, go for it.
- Can I get help?
- Often what looks
unitary from afar
is actually composite
- Asking for help can be difficult if we feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Some like the feeling of independence that comes with control, even if that sense of control is an illusion. See "Are You Taking on the Full Load?," Point Lookout for February 6, 2002, and "Heavy Burdens: Should, Always, Must, and Never," Point Lookout for February 27, 2002, for more.
- When ownership of a problem is joint with others, all owners must work together. And even when you own the problem fully, addressing it might be beyond your capability. Ask for help when you need it.
- What kind of help would help?
- Difficult problems are difficult, in part, because the tools we do know about haven't worked. And when we don't know about something we need, it's hard to ask for it.
- When you feel lost, ask someone what kind of help would help. Check in with a mentor, a coach, a colleague, or a friend.
- Can I confront?
- If the problem results from the actions of another, we sometimes feel the urge to escalate, to force our partners to change what they're doing. But escalation can be dangerous because it might harm the relationship.
- Here are two alternatives. First, tell your partner what you want. Explain first what problems you face that might be visible only to you. Alternatively, and even less confrontational — ask for what you want. One possible risk of these tactics: they reveal that you know what's happening, and this knowledge might be used against you.
- What do I already know?
- Remembering what you already know is perhaps your most important tool. Sadly, under stress, remembering anything can be very difficult.
- I remind myself by breathing. It slows me down and clears my mind, probably because oxygen is an aid to clear thinking.
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? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Reverse Micromanagement
- Micromanagement is too familiar to too many of us. Less familiar is inappropriate interference in the
reverse direction — in the work of our supervisors or even higher in the chain. Disciplinary action
isn't always helpful, especially when some of the causes of reverse micromanagement are organizational.
- Animosity Patterns
- Animosity between two people at work is often attributed to "personality clashes." While sometimes
people can't get along, animosity can also be a tool for accomplishing strictly political ends. Here's
a short catalog of some of its uses.
- Obstructionist Tactics: I
- Teams and groups depend for their success on highly effective cooperation between their members. If
even one person is unable or unwilling to cooperate, the team's performance is limited. What tactics
do obstructors use?
- Communication Traps for Virtual Teams: I
- Virtual teams encounter difficulties that rarely confront face-to-face teams. What special challenges
do they face, and what can we do about them?
- Kinds of Organizational Authority: the Formal
- A clear understanding of Power, Authority, and Influence depends on familiarity with the kinds of authority
found in organizations. Here's Part I of a little catalog of authority classes.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 2: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VII
- Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects of that disregard. Available here and by RSS on May 2.
- And on May 9: Unethical Coordination
- When an internal department or an external source is charged with managing information about a large project, a conflict of interest can develop. That conflict presents opportunities for unethical behavior. What is the nature of that conflict, and what ethical breaches can occur? Available here and by RSS on May 9.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.