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11 Things Only People Who Suffer From Office Politics Would Understand

11 Things Only People Who Suffer From Office Politics Would Understand

Whenever a group of people get together, there is gossip and the spreading of rumor. These are usually short-lived periods of time – a party, a happy hour, a weekend jaunt with friends. But what if the gossip, the rumor, the back-stabbing and more are permanent conditions that a person lives with every day at the office? Then these behaviors become a constant source of anxiety, anger, and a real danger to job security.

Those people who engage in “office politics” usually do so out of fear and insecurity – fear that they will not be held in high esteem by their bosses and co-workers, and insecurity about their positions because their performances are pretty mediocre. The problem is their behaviors usually mean that others become victims. And only victims of office politics will understand the following 11 things that office politickers can do to make their lives miserable.

1. They Try to Drag You into their Lairs

They have plans. They want to sabotage the reputation or the work of others and they want you to take part in those plans. You don’t want to be involved, but the culprit seems to be a “favorite” of the boss, and if you don’t go along you could be next. You are asked not to share work with this other person or to be too busy to collaborate with them to get something completed. Caught in the middle, you find yourself avoiding both of these people. The pressure is so stressful that you start looking to change departments and use up all of your sick leave looking for another job.

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2. They will try to get you to be disloyal to others on the team or your boss.

There are people who believe they can move up in an organization by being disloyal and by undermining others; sometimes this even works. And being disloyal takes on many forms. Sometimes it means that the politickers do a deliberately poor job on a project to make someone else or their boss look bad. When you don’t want to “play this game” and you are committed to always doing your best, you are seen as a “traitor” to these folks.

One victim tells a story of a collaborative project she was working on with two co-workers who were real “snakes.” They hated their boss and wanted to discredit him. When the boss approved the project and told them to send it on to the district manager, they imbedded a link to a porn site in the text before sending it on in their boss’s name. The employee was so upset by this, she privately told the boss, who was then able to repair the damage and fire the other two employees. The word got out, however, and she became a “leper” to everyone else in the office. She ultimately quit.

3. They try to get you to engage in gossip and spread office rumors.

That co-worker who just got the promotion? She is obviously sleeping with the boss. Lunch in the company cafeteria becomes a gossip and bashing session that gives you indigestion and heartburn. Rather than spend all of your extra cash on acid reducers, you then have to find excuses to eat at your desk or run errands during lunch hour just to avoid it all. And if you do this too often, they come to see you as “not one of them” and you lose cooperation when you need it to get things done. You feel isolated and alone and start a job search.

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4. They undermine and shun you if your work is “too good.”

If you stay late to finish up a task or project, if you take work home with you to meet a deadline, or if your work product is just too well done, you are a “suck-up,” deliberately trying to make them look bad and find special favor with the boss. You have a strong work ethic and you are committed to doing your best at everything. Now you are stuck between doing less than your best to be a “team player” or sticking with your work ethic and incurring their anger.

One employee was in charge of doing the background research for a major consulting presentation that the boss was going to make to a potential client. A couple of team members were upset that he was getting so many compliments from the boss on his work. When he submitted his portion of the presentation to the team leader, it was altered before going on to the boss. He had no idea until the boss expressed his disappointment with his work. Fortunately, he had a copy of the original and was able to provide it. Because the boss did nothing to rectify the situation, he found that he had to be sure to back up everything he produced and submit it separately to the boss. This situation was intolerable and that boss ultimately lost a good employee.

5. They help and cooperate until you start getting too many compliments from the boss.

Once they see you as being more “favored,” they are threatened. Now they have to sabotage you in subtle ways, or, maybe, not so subtle ways. One individual reported that she arrived at the office one morning to find a large sales data base file that she managed for the whole office was corrupted and unusable. She suspected two co-workers of the deed, because she had not shut down her computer properly the night before, and they were still there when she left for the day. What they did not know, however, was that she had a data base recovery software in place that allowed her to restore the entire file. While she was unable to prove that two co-workers had probably conspired to do that, she certainly never left the office again without fully shutting down her computer. After fending off a few other attempts to sabotage her work, she decided to fight the situation by addressing it with her boss. His response was that he was certain she was being a bit paranoid, and that those events may have just been errors on her part. Obviously, she promptly began a job search.

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6. They engage in “turf” wars.

Politickers are very much like the child in the sandbox who will not share his/her toys with anyone, no matter how much another child may need a particular utensil to finish a creation. They never outgrow these turf wars, probably due to deep-seated insecurities, but God help the person in the office who encroaches into an area of responsibility that belongs to this person.

When one co-worker had called in sick, and a project was due, another co-worker stepped in to finish it. When the absent co-worker returned the next day, he was furious that his work had been usurped and turned into the boss. He wanted to be the one to turn it in. The co-worker explained that he had been given credit for the project, but that did not matter. From that point forward the “injured” co-worker refused to cooperate in any way and, in fact, developed a habit of withholding important information, just to make his “enemy” have to work harder to locate it on his own.

7. They can play the “gender” game with co-workers of the opposite sex.

One school administrator tells a funny story from several years ago. She was promoted to associate principal and athletic director of a very large high school in the Midwest. Athletics was huge, and the coaches who had been passed over for the position were just waiting for her to fail. That was obvious when their cooperation was less than forthcoming. One of her responsibilities was to attend a monthly meeting with the athletic directors of all the schools in their conference – all of them men. After the first meeting, which went fairly well, she returned to her school district and made a report to the Superintendent. In the conversation, he expressed surprise that she was back so soon, because the group always went out for a meal and a beer afterward. As the next monthly meeting was ending, she said to the group, “Where are we going to eat?” They had no choice. She surprised them all with her ability to talk sports, and they were quite impressed that she had personally followed college football avidly. She was even able to describe and draw some particularly unique plays that had been used. The coaches waiting for her to fail never got their wish. She became a respected athletic director in that state.

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8. They try to “play” you against a co-worker or your boss.

The scenario goes like this. A co-worker comes to you wanting to tell you something confidentially – something bad that a co-worker or your boss said about you to them, but you can’t repeat it because it also was told in confidence. The “do-gooder” just wants you to know what was said.

You are devastated. And your attitude toward that co-worker or boss changes big-time. They sense it of course, and the relationship deteriorates. You retreat emotionally at work, and, ultimately, you begin to look for another job. The culprit has just neutralized you as a competitor.

9. They will try to get you to criticize or say negative things about your boss.

It begins rather innocently. A co-worker comes to your desk or office and expresses frustration with the boss – maybe an unreasonable deadline or a disagreement on how to proceed with a client. You express empathy and in so doing agree that sometimes that boss can be unreasonable and too demanding. The words are out and they will be repeated to others, ultimately making their way up the chain to the boss. And you are left wondering why you don’t get the good projects anymore – projects in which you can demonstrate your expertise and your value.

10. They gain your confidence and then use it against you

A team member welcomes you aboard, invites you out to lunch, and goes out of his/her way to help you become acclimated. They becomes a good friend and you begin to socialize together – going out for drinks after work, playing tennis on the weekends, and so forth. You begin to share some “secrets,” like the fact that you have been known to occasionally use a little pot, during non-work hours of course. When your job performance begins to be recognized and praised, the snake is threatened. Pretty soon, the fact that you use pot is all over the office, and the boss calls you in for a “meeting.”

11. They will steal your ideas and present them as their own.

This is probably one of the most common backstabbing techniques of the really insecure culprit. When you express an idea or a potential solution to a problem, it might be rejected as impractical. All of a sudden, that idea or solution has been presented to the boss and he praised it.

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Elena Prokopets

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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