Are You Thriving in Workplace Politics…
Or Are You Being Crushed?

Some people seem to either have a natural talent…or no conscience. What can the rest of us do if we want to survive? The answer is as simple as riding a bicycle: we can learn.

Are you having Skip to the Details:
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your butt handed to you in workplace politics? 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?

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIn my own experience, and in working with clients in my consulting and coaching practices, I've learned a lot about the tactics and strategies of workplace politics. I've packed the best and most useful of it into 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, in a compact, accessible format that reads easily and clearly.

This tip book lays out the common ploys people use in workplace politics. It tells you what to watch out for, and how to deal with it. You can read it straight through, every once in a while, or use it as a reference.

Originally published in August 2005 as 101 Secrets of Workplace Politics, this ebook has grown from 5100 words to more than 28,000 words, to include many more insights, secrets, tips and ideas. It's now 124% bigger than Who Moved My Cheese?.

Sample secrets

Here's a sample:

Credit theft is lowbrow
Credit theft is the trademark of the unsophisticated (and greedy) operator. He or she might look powerful, but it's probably an illusion.
Embrace Change
Change creates turbulence, and turbulence creates opportunities. Stability is for those who want to play a defensive game, and in today's environment, defense is not where you want to be.
Be funny when you want to be
Humor can make the difference between confrontation and collaboration. If you aren't funny, Download on iTunesyou can learn; if you're already funny, take care to use your talent sparingly and at the right times.
Know that workplace politics isn't a game
Sometimes we talk about "playing the game," but thinking of politics that way is self-destructive. Workplace politics isn't a game.

Skill in managing organizational politics is helpful to managers who must compete with others for resources, but it's also helpful to project managers. For instance, anyone who wants to resume or restart a paused project will quickly recognize that political skill is critical success factor.

Comments from readers

From Sam T.:
Rick Brenner's 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics offers bite-sized yet profound insight into the motivations behind people's behaviors at work and how to work with what's really going on. It's a great pick-me-up after a hard day at work or even right in the middle when things are hard and you need a new idea about how to approach it all. Thanks, Rick, for all of the work you do in this world. It makes a difference.
An anonymous reader:
Very well written and easily digested. Be prepared for an eye-opening revelation which is what you call your work experience. The different facets of the material is a tremendous reality check to gauge where you are…and where you are going in the organization. The author comes highly recommended and he bears some serious credentials. Another extremely helpful tool in your toolbox for positively and constructively navigating the turbulent sea known as organizational politics.
Carol Elliott
Rick's insights offer an unusual combination of an engineer's mind and a psychologist's intuition. Rick has helped me zero in on my own true and others' possible motivations in the workplace and keep me focused on who I really am and what I aspire to be.

Table of contents

Click the folder icons to reveal (or hide) individual chapter content summaries, or:

  • 1Politics can be constructive
  • 2Understand what politics is
  • 3There is a time and place for both pragmatism and ideology
  • 4Favor inclusiveness over domination
  • 5Shorten your time horizon
  • 6Abandon behaviorism and revenge
  • 7Narrow your own goals
  • 8When things turn toxic, get help
  • 9When a difficult conversation is ahead, prepare
  • 10Know your options when you're asked for a favor
  • 11Know how to respond to requests for favors
  • 12Know how to make peace
  • 13Know the difference between Blame and Responsibility
  • 14Know the culture you work in
  • 15Be attuned to language
  • 16Notice diagnoses
  • 17Notice the grumbling
  • 18Notice whether Blame runs downhill or uphill
  • 19Notice whether we blame processes
  • 20Notice whether CYA is a standard business procedure
  • 21Notice whether you apply revised policy retroactively
  • 22Notice whether you revise policy in response to success
  • 23Notice whether you have people who are "designated winners"
  • 24Notice whether we blame people for breaking unwritten rules
  • 25Notice whether people get sandbagged
  • 26Avoid blaming yourself
  • 27Treat retrospectives with care
  • 28Acknowledge failure — maybe
  • 29Never, ever, kill the messenger
  • 30Messenger deaths have long-lasting effects
  • 31Watch out for spin
  • 32Re-educate and reassign, but don't destroy
  • 33There's no way to use Blame constructively
  • 34Conflict isn't always what it seems
  • 35Be careful how you think about rumors
  • 36You can't shut down the rumor mill
  • 37In responding to rumors, make your self-esteem your first priority
  • 38Manage your knee-jerk reactions
  • 39Don't spread rumors
  • 40Rumors become more damaging with age
  • 41Most rumors are credible
  • 42Packaged rumors spread more rapidly
  • 43Quelling a rumor is a waste of time
  • 44Dismissing rumors doesn't work
  • 45Respond constructively
  • 46Circulate the truth
  • 47Truth flies on emotional wings
  • 48Openness can be risky
  • 49Leave no voids
  • 50Don't wait for rumors to develop
  • 51People will worry if they want to
  • 52The First Rule of Rumor Management
  • 53Be prepared to reorganize
  • 54Practice ethical influence
  • 55As a "newbie", learn about ethics from the veterans
  • 56In for a penny, in for a pound
  • 57Trust only the trustworthy
  • 58Don't appeal to judges or the public
  • 59Accept that loyalties change
  • 60Avoid actions that need to be covered up
  • 61Behave in ways you can be proud of
  • 62Beware personal benefits
  • 63Even inaction is action
  • 64Tricky language is neither protection nor a valid excuse
  • 65Know the law, but don't abuse its protection
  • 66Finagling budgets to conceal trouble is trouble
  • 67Know the indicators of gray areas
  • 68Be skeptical of security precautions
  • 69Check politics at the door
  • 70Avoid exporting your troubles
  • 71Looking the other way is usually unsafe
  • 72When you look the other way, you risk involvement in discrimination
  • 73When you look the other way, you risk involvement in cronyism
  • 74When you look the other way, you risk involvement in bullying
  • 75When you look the other way, you risk involvement in theft or goldbricking
  • 76When you look the other way, you risk involvement in sexual, political, or religious harassment
  • 77Seekers of illicit information use "holography"
  • 78Delay is always an option
  • 79Choose your battles
  • 80Practice the art of compromise
  • 81Sometimes it's best to walk away
  • 82Choose your dance partners
  • 83Make agreements explicit
  • 84Make exchanges contemporaneous
  • 85Keep loads uniform
  • 86Space milestones evenly
  • 87Milestones near deliveries are critical
  • 88Deliver usable results at regular intervals
  • 89Help the customer with the post-delivery environment
  • 90Expect confidences to be broken
  • 91Negotiate time limits for confidences
  • 92Negotiate a limited right to repeat confidences
  • 93Negotiate escape clauses for confidences
  • 94Don't staff the ammo dump
  • 95Choose your enemies carefully
  • 96Ask permission (and get it) before you give advice, feedback, or help
  • 97Be funny when you want to be
  • 98Share the credit
  • 99You can't control what people believe
  • 100Use empathy to frame messages effectively
  • 101Knowing when to act or speak is as important as the act or the speech
  • 102To lead, motivate, inspire, or deter, appreciate the internal state of others
  • 103Know how to inspire people to achieve an immediate goal
  • 104Know how to inspire people to achieve a distant goal
  • 105Know when people are overloaded
  • 106Work always to improve your empathy skills
  • 107Reject the myth that a few firings will shape them up
  • 108Reject the myth that pay-for-performance is the answer
  • 109Reject the Strategy of the Whip
  • 110Do what you can to enhance retention
  • 111Learn how to build a trusting environment
  • 112Know the signs of an untrusting group culture
  • 113Know how to deal with "knife-edge performers"
  • 114Don't do virtual terminations
  • 115Be skeptical of indirect measurements
  • 116People aren't bolts of cloth
  • 117Leader, measure thyself
  • 118Measure your metrics
  • 119You don't always get what you measure
  • 120Know what problem you're solving
  • 121Be certain that the problem you're solving is yours to solve
  • 122Consider what happens if you wait
  • 123If the problem isn't yours, whose is it?
  • 124Be certain that you're solving the right problem
  • 125Address first the smallest problem you can usefully address
  • 126Consider asking for help
  • 127Know what kind of help would help
  • 128Consider the confrontation option
  • 129Take inventory of what you already know
  • 130In meetings, be aware of solution-seeking
  • 131In problem-solving meetings, diplomacy is essential
  • 132Negotiate from their perspective
  • 133Superior job performance is your foundation
  • 134Get a coach
  • 135Know that workplace politics isn't a game
  • 136Understand how political attack differs from routine politics
  • 137Political attackers have the advantage of planning
  • 138Political attackers have the advantage of surprise
  • 139Political attackers can control the tempo of the exchange
  • 140Political attackers can control timing
  • 141Political attackers can choose their venues
  • 142Political attackers can exploit prepositioned assets
  • 143Political attackers are usually more comfortable with attacking
  • 144Think beyond precedent
  • 145Work hard but not too hard
  • 146Rest when you can
  • 147Acquiring resources can be a distraction
  • 148Don't ride point
  • 149Always, always have a backup plan
  • 150Know what to do when all your options are bad
  • 151Accept the bad news as good news
  • 152When you hit a dead end, change your tactics or strategy
  • 153Dogma, politics, budget, and schedule tend to bias our hunt for solutions
  • 154Suspect first the distasteful parts of a broken solution
  • 155When trouble strikes, increase information distribution
  • 156When trouble strikes, take smaller bites
  • 157For first-of-kind efforts, educate everyone about the inevitability of setbacks
  • 158Be wary of near-completion setbacks
  • 159Reward honesty and failure
  • 160Reduce overload
  • 161Read
  • 162Know what other people are reading
  • 163Change your experience instead of changing other people
  • 164Get in touch with your "No"
  • 165Organizational psychopaths do exist
  • 166Embrace Change
  • 167Deliver the headline first
  • 168Use the "So What?" test to determine the headline
  • 169Deliver the bad news first
  • 170Choose task names and code names carefully
  • 171When in trouble, don't talk — deliver
  • 172Short schedules help perceptions
  • 173Don't expect breakthroughs to erase anxiety
  • 174Use a four-step framework when presenting to persuade
  • 175As presenter, don't evaluate questions
  • 176As presenter, stay out of the rabbit hole
  • 177As a virtual presenter, make special preparations
  • 178As a virtual presenter, beware technology
  • 179Know the special techniques of virtual presenters
  • 180When you're asked a question, let the questioner ask the question
  • 181When you're asked a question, make sure you understand
  • 182When you're asked a question, withhold derision
  • 183When you're asked a question, stay in bounds
  • 184Don't joke about serious matters
  • 185Know how to handle spacing out
  • 186Be right
  • 187Learn to recognize brilliant questions
  • 188Learn how to ask brilliant questions
  • 189Learn to deal with ambush questions
  • 190Learn to deal with leading questions
  • 191Learn to deal with loaded questions
  • 192Learn to deal with implied accusations
  • 193Learn to deal with pressure tactics
  • 194Learn to deal with cheap shots
  • 195Learn to deal with trap construction
  • 196Learn to deal with zingers
  • 197Know the most common dismissive gestures
  • 198Know some tactics for changing the subject
  • 199Know some tactics for ending conversations
  • 200Keep a working journal
  • 201Understand the three varieties of condescension
  • 202Know when to hold back
  • 203Know when to walk away
  • 204Groups have their own minds too
  • 205Language does count
  • 206Become familiar with the rhetorical fallacies
  • 207Be careful about how you experience mistreatment
  • 208Avoid the Fundamental Attribution Error
  • 209When the situation is unacceptable, accept that it is unacceptable
  • 210When in trouble, seek support
  • 211When in trouble, remember that some things aren't about you
  • 212Base your self-esteem on yourself
  • 213When leaders fight, everyone feels the pain
  • 214A fight between leaders is a performance issue for the feuders' supervisor
  • 215In proximity to a leadership feud lies danger
  • 216In a leadership feud, you can lose (win) even if your boss wins (loses)
  • 217Prepare for the day when peace arrives
  • 218Avoid the role of fender
  • 219Hands-on project managers risk schedule collisions
  • 220Hands-on project managers have inherent conflicts of interest
  • 221Hands-on project managers are more susceptible to distraction
  • 222Hands-on project manager roles create team risk
  • 223Decision makers are biased in favor of the hands-on project manager role
  • 224Currying favor is a corrosive tactic
  • 225Know the tactics of ingratiators
  • 226Know what to do when others curry favor with your boss
  • 227If your boss really is a dolt, look above
  • 228If your boss is a dolt, worrying won't help
  • 229If you're really unhappy in your job, fish or cut bait
  • 230To stay in a so-so job, make a commitment to it
  • 231Know what to do if your boss's poor performance affects yours
  • 232If you undertake a coup d'etat and fail, you pay
  • 233Managing your boss really isn't in your job description
  • 234What you can do to others can be done to you
  • 235Know and recognize the three types of promotions
  • 236If you're aiming for a promotion, know your real motivations
  • 237To get the right promotion at the right time, know your true capabilities
  • 238When seeking a promotion, see yourself as others see you
  • 239To gain promotion, clean up your act
  • 240To gain a promotion, attend to relationships
  • 241To gain a promotion in place, get known as a resource
  • 242To gain a promotion, document your contributions
  • 243For a promotion in place, know that your contributions won't change in kind
  • 244To gain a promotion in place, understand your employer's goals
  • 245If you're aiming for a promotion in place, check the resources
  • 246For a promotion in line, understand your employer's goals
  • 247To win a promotion in line, demonstrate capability
  • 248To win a promotion in line, be replaceable
  • 249To win a promotion in line, make the people you work with look good
  • 250To win a promotion in line, be flexible about relocation and travel
  • 251When you're entering as the lowest in rank, enter gently
  • 252As a "newbie", know the value you bring to the team
  • 253As a "newbie", establish credibility opportunistically
  • 254Know how to identify a micromanager
  • 255Know how to deal with a micromanaging boss
  • 256Know when to break the rules
  • 257Your enemy might not be your enemy
  • 258Credit theft is lowbrow
  • 259Talk about credit theft
  • 260Credit thieves spare no one
  • 261Watch for blowback
  • 262Complexity is your friend
  • 263Know how to deal with the minimalist stonewaller
  • 264Know how to deal with the parental stonewaller
  • 265Know how to deal with Major-Major-Major stonewalling
  • 266Know how to recognize the lateral micromanager
  • 267Understand the tactics of the lateral micromanager
  • 268Know how to deal with the lateral micromanager
  • 269Fight back when you must
  • 270Beware the hypothetical trap
  • 271False opportunities abound
  • 272Beware diversions
  • 273Flirtation, flattery, and romance are not always what they seem
  • 274Know how to deal with nepotism and patronage
  • 275Beware the non-chance chance meeting
  • 276Some people fly false flags
  • 277Trust-building isn't just for the trustworthy
  • 278It seems like a mistake, but it could be bait
  • 279Disinterest isn't always what it seems
  • 280Relationship-building isn't either
  • 281Beware the conspiracy as tactic
  • 282Recognize rhinestone opportunities
  • 283Decline diversions
  • 284Avoid dead ends
  • 285Forgo forays
  • 286Don't do calisthenics
  • 287Don't run three-legged races
  • 288Recognize the hit-and-run
  • 289Recognize the proxy target
  • 290Learn to recognize confidential disinformation
  • 291When there is a favored subordinate, make a decision
  • 292Beware unfair information swaps
  • 293The rational model of human behavior is often wrong
  • 294Negotiators might not be acting irrationally
  • 295Deceptive negotiators can use intimidation tactics
  • 296Deceptive negotiators can use shame-based tactics
  • 297Deceptive negotiators sometimes seize the drafting role
  • 298Deceptive negotiators can exploit the drafting role
  • 299Injustice for one leads to injustice for all
  • 300Beware the Hospital Pass
  • 301Anticipate alliances
  • 302Be wary of empire builders
  • 303Dividers-and-Conquerors are dangerous


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This book has an ISBN of 978-1-938932-05-2.

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