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To wonder if i will ever get the hang of workplace politics?

(8 Posts)
malificent7 Wed 28-Jun-17 12:56:04

I was crap at politics at school and im crap at workplace politics too.
I just cannot fathom it. I try to be friendly whilst being professional but it never works.
I am not a managerial type and i hate bossing people about. I think i am too trusting and nice and ive been back stabbed a few times.
In my last role my boss gave me a long hard stare which i found really intimidating and i had to leave the room. I then heard her make fun of other colleagues.
My dad thinks i should just suck up but i cant with her ilk.
I think i work hard but i just find it hard to fit in.
Tbh i find other peoole really difficult and id love to work from home or with animal!
Am i alone? I think workplace success is linked to being ruthless... something im not.
I do want to earn more so perhaps i just need to work harder and be a cow!

HundredMilesAnHour Wed 28-Jun-17 13:17:39

Workplace politics can be tough but it's something you need to learn to deal with. That doesn't mean you have to participate in it but you need an awareness so that you didn't end up suffering either.

I've worked in some extremely political vicious environments and it can be miserable but it's very much sink or swim.

You need to work out if it's actual politics that you find unpleasant or if it's more a case of you not being comfortable making management/business decisions. It actually sounds like it may be more the latter! Would assertiveness training help?

At work I have learnt to disengage emotionally when making business decisions. I have a job to do and I leave my personal feelings out of it. It took a while years to master this but now it's automatic. I am professional and friendly (I like to have a laugh at work as much as possible - we are so stressed out most of the time that it helps to lighten the mood) but I can switch in an instant when I need to get down to business. Or if someone is trying to prevent me achieving my end goal. OP I think you need to remember that you're at work to do a job, not be everyone's friend. Yes, it's great if you all get along together and have a jolly nice time but it's the job that counts and sometimes that means doing/saying things that will upset or annoy people. This will increase as you get more senior.

You also need to remember that not everyone is like you. There is a worryingly large number of people in most workplaces that are incompetent or feel threatened or are just plain weird/unpleasant. These people will often seek to undermine by backstabbing or bitching or just being arses. They play by different rules to you. I'm not saying lower yourself to their level but you need to remember that not everyone has good intentions and adjust your behaviour accordingly.

malificent7 Wed 28-Jun-17 17:52:09

Thanks for the intelligent reply. I'm fed up of watching my back but I guess I will have to.
I'm actually horrified by the pettiness and horridness that goes on tbh. I am also finding that a large number of psychopaths reach senior positions. I really cannot think why else my ex boss fixed me with a cold hard stare. It was designed to intimidate and belittle and cannot be proved as I cannot quote 'cold hard, intimidating stare to HR."
It's the general atmosphere of fear, mistrust and desperate brown nosing and grovelling that I find obscene. Time for a new career I feel!

HundredMilesAnHour Wed 28-Jun-17 19:01:04

I totally understand how you feel. I learnt how to play the politics game the hard way i.e. I thought working hard and doing a good job was what counted and oh how wrong I was! That actually makes you a bigger threat! It sounds like this is what you're finding out (sorry to hear that, I know it's awful and very disillusioning).

I worked somewhere so unpleasant that I can't even begin to tell you how any times I locked myself in the Ladies in tears, or was in tears in the kitchen and on a couple of occasions even at my desk. Our company GP prescribed me Xanax several times (it tells you something about the company when we had a GP sitting in our basement). But you cannot let these f*ckers win. It took me time to get my game together but I came back fighting. Now I'm very politically savvy and don't open my mouth or take any action without considering the consequences first (and adjusting where I think I need to). I protect myself, my team and my boss/my client at all times but I maintain my integrity and will do "the right thing" no matter how much it p*sses some people off. I just make sure I can back up my rationale my clear, objective evidence.

As a result, my career has really taken off - an unexpected benefit I guess. smile Most of my job now is about politics or manipulation (a.k.a. "stakeholder management" wink) in order to get the results we require. The downside is that I assume the worst of everyone. But the upside to that is that sometimes I'm genuinely pleasantly surprised when people do nice things.

Whatever you do, don't let the work sociopaths/psychopaths intimidate you or upset you. You just have to try to switch your emotions off and focus on your job. And, as my deputy always says to me, "CYA" (Cover Your Arse).

As an aside, I do voluntary work one day a week with animals (at a wildlife hospital) and it does me the world of good mentally. No politics, no backstabbing, just hard physical work for a good cause. Finding an outlet away from work helps keep my sanity. smile None of the people I volunteer with have ever even asked what I do for a living. Seems weird when my job is such a big part of my life but it's also good to be around people who haven't sold their souls to the devil for their careers wink

DSHathawayGivesMeFannyGallops Wed 28-Jun-17 23:15:29

Management skills come with time, I found. And the whole thing is really multi faceted. Trial and error as to what works for you, who you're managing, who you report to, what's going on etc. I have some of the skills down but not others! For example, I think I'm a fair manager and I try and stand up for my staff and advocate for them and help with problems. When it comes to representing myself to my own boss and her boss... I am polite and professional but I struggle to be heard. I am naturally blunt but probably try too hard to button it at work and end up stifled as I can't always advocate for myself very well. I'm an arselick workaholic and I just don't know how to defend myself diplomatically but firmly.

I would say stop caring about whether colleagues love you. I want my staff to like me as it makes them easier to manage and we are civil and have a good atmosphere . I don't need them to LOVE me as I find it gets cliquey, over personal and you simply won't click with everyone. I try to be even handed as much as possible and I try to chat to everyone so I know what's going on with them. I'm still a bit soft on occasion but I usually learn from it. It's just keeping an act up.

FWIW, I definitely was not a political animal at school, either!

Nettletheelf Wed 28-Jun-17 23:38:04

One of my friends once described workplace politics quite niftily. She said that work is at least 50% pretending that stupid incompetent people are clever. Which I'd do well to remember: I struggle to hide my contempt for people like that and it's certainly not helped!

I just try not to overthink the workplace politics. In my last role, the environment (FTSE 100) was incredibly politicised and my boss - who was very senior - lived in constant fear of offending somebody even more senior or making the smallest slip that would give somebody an opportunity to backstab him. He had a nervous breakdown in the end.

Hundredmiles gives some good advice. Depressingly, that is the way to survive at work, but the secret is not to adopt those values. Just learn to navigate them, knowing that other people may be backstabbing and/or paranoid, so that you aren't undefended. It would be lovely to always work with clever, motivated, principled people. Most of us don't.

PookieDo Wed 28-Jun-17 23:45:06

The way I have navigated office politics is to be very Switzerland. I'm nice to absolutely everyone (even if I don't like them) and very helpful but don't join in on any of the bitching.
People seem to listen to me because I only pipe up when it is something worth saying. I think people who talk too much aren't always heard!
I am not the best at having to reprimand someone so I try to never have to get to that point!

DSHathawayGivesMeFannyGallops Wed 28-Jun-17 23:50:32

PookieDo says what I was trying to get at very well- Switzerland, neutral, pleasant, civil.

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