Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Thoughts on Office Politics

There is always an inner circle. Temper any criticism of it. The people on the outside who complain about the inner circle would replace it with their own inner circle.

Don’t be too open. The Sixties mentality of revealing your feelings to all is the equivalent of a “kick me” sign on your back. Keep a sense of mystery.

Learn the organization’s culture. Some places thrive on loud arguments. Others prefer peaceful discussions. Many are conflict-adverse. Know when you risk violating a cultural code.

Be respectful of turf. Avoid end-runs. Consult others in a meaningful manner and listen carefully to their concerns.

Pick your battles carefully. Try to do right, not be right. If someone else has made a good point, acknowledge it. Don’t rush to ascribe bad motives.

Don’t aim your wit at others - many a career has been harmed by sarcasm – and stay out of the gossip game.

Take the time to get to know people. The cup of coffee that you had last week with the HR Director was not time wasted. You have to build relationships if you are going to get things done.

Don’t have a caste system when it comes to being polite. If someone is rude to your administrative assistant, will that affect your view of the person? You bet. Today’s intern may be tomorrow’s department head.

If you screw up, admit it. Your credibility is at stake. Don’t sacrifice it out of a desire to appear perfect.

Strive for reasonableness. Prima donnas are only amusing from a distance. One of the best reputations that you can cultivate is for being stable, reasonable, and wise. If you have to choose between colorful or reliable, go for reliable.

Consider and advertise your worth. If the organization were to start from scratch tomorrow, would the top dogs want to hire you? Don’t assume that your talent is self-evident. Periodically report on your - i.e., your team’s – accomplishments.

Don’t drop people on their heads. If you make a commitment, keep it, and if you cannot do so, let the other person know as soon as possible.

Be sensitive to the small things. Return phone calls and emails. Remember birthdays. Let others know they are valued. The small gestures have special impact.

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