Friday, November 9, 2012

How To Deal With Office Politics


"They say you shouldn't burn bridges, and that’s true. But I've burned bridges before, and it’s hard not to be angry sometimes if you feel like you've been taken advantage of. The trick is to buck up and apologize if you've made a mistake, and try to be professional. it might take a few months for some water to flow under the bridge, but it’s worth it. In my experience, people really respect somebody who can admit their mistakes and confront a situation honestly."
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I recently had an altercation with a coworker. This coworker and I don't exactly mesh very well. I can't explain why, but for some odd reason we're oil and water. On this occasion, this coworker was given a responsibility that is usually reserved for our boss, handing out checks. So, as he begins to hand checks to us, I stand up nearby his desk while putting on my coat because I'm getting ready to go deposit my check. He hands it to a coworker in front of me, walks around me, hands a check to another coworker, then another, then another, and places mine on my desk. Then proceeds to walk back to his desk. I immediately ask, "why couldn't you hand me my check? I was standing near you." To which my coworker replies, "Oh you were hounding me!"

I made no move to step in his way, I didn't even speak as he moved past me. What could he be referring to? My presence alone 'hounded' him into deliberately bypassing me?

Of course, our previous history of rubbing each other the wrong way didn't help, so asked him what I thought was a logical question, "why are you being a d!ck?!" To which the coworker replied, "you don't wanna do it Jayelle, you don't wanna do it!" I asked, "don't want to do what?" Was this some subliminal threat? Either way, I wasn't backing down. I shouted back, "why did you deliberately place it on my desk? Handing it to me is just being courteous. You don't have to like me, to respect me." Then the conversation ended as the coworker went outside for a cigarette.

***


After talking it over with friends and a meeting with higher ups, it became clear to me that calling this coworker a "dick" was definitely the wrong way to handle the situation. What I considered a blatant slight by my coworker was considered unworthy of my reaction. I was aware of the relationship between this coworker and management, but it has become crystal clear now.

What has become more clear than ever, are the rules of workplace politics.
"When you feel stressed or powerless, you sometimes have a bad attitude. I don’t believe it when I read columns by consultants that talk about the importance of avoiding all office politics and gossip. We aren't robots, and it’s tough not to get sucked in when you’re building relationships with colleagues, celebrating victories and commiserating over failures. You want to be careful though… negativity builds on itself."
I'm not a newbie to the workplace, but I am a newbie to handling things in a round-about way. I was informed that what I should have done was take my supervisor to the side, explain my feelings about the situation, then simply hope that my concerns aren't tossed away. Unfortunately, my argument could not be heard because of my outburst. I failed at remaining composed, while the coworker succeeded in getting a rise out of me. Lesson Learned.
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This lesson in workplace politics taught me so much about everyone involved and more importantly, myself. This incident also put things into perspective, as clarity is all that one can hope for aside from getting fired.

Tips to Becoming an Office Politician:
1. No one in your workplace is a friend, these are your coworkers and that is all.
2. Things can't always be fair, especially in business. Fairness has no meaning, only remaining professional under one-sided circumstances. 
3. When you have an issue however small or large with a coworker, speak to someone above both of you.
4. Remain professional, no matter what.
5. If you start feel emotion emerging to the surface, get a safe distance away from the office before you express it.



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