Workplace politics is an amorphous mystery to many of us, in part because we lack some simple tools. Here's Part II of a little catalog of ten widely applicable tactics. See "Ten Tactics for Tough Times: I," Point Lookout for February 1, 2006, for more.
- Am I solving the right problem?
- Even if you solve the problem, your solution might not be useful unless you solve the right problem.
- A risk of this tactic is inappropriately assuming responsibility for problem definition. Focus only on the portion of the problem definition space that truly is yours.
- What's the smallest piece I can usefully address?
- Often what looks unitary from afar is actually composite close up. Once you get into it, you can clearly see its separate parts.
- When you can finally discern the pieces, focus on the easy parts. If one of them feels like a good fit, go for it.
- Can I get help?
- Often what looks
unitary from afar
is actually composite
- Asking for help can be difficult if we feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Some like the feeling of independence that comes with control, even if that sense of control is an illusion. See "Are You Taking on the Full Load?," Point Lookout for February 6, 2002, and "Heavy Burdens: Should, Always, Must, and Never," Point Lookout for February 27, 2002, for more.
- When ownership of a problem is joint with others, all owners must work together. And even when you own the problem fully, addressing it might be beyond your capability. Ask for help when you need it.
- What kind of help would help?
- Difficult problems are difficult, in part, because the tools we do know about haven't worked. And when we don't know about something we need, it's hard to ask for it.
- When you feel lost, ask someone what kind of help would help. Check in with a mentor, a coach, a colleague, or a friend.
- Can I confront?
- If the problem results from the actions of another, we sometimes feel the urge to escalate, to force our partners to change what they're doing. But escalation can be dangerous because it might harm the relationship.
- Here are two alternatives. First, tell your partner what you want. Explain first what problems you face that might be visible only to you. Alternatively, and even less confrontational — ask for what you want. One possible risk of these tactics: they reveal that you know what's happening, and this knowledge might be used against you.
- What do I already know?
- Remembering what you already know is perhaps your most important tool. Sadly, under stress, remembering anything can be very difficult.
- I remind myself by breathing. It slows me down and clears my mind, probably because oxygen is an aid to clear thinking.
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? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- When Power Attends the Meeting
- When the boss or supervisor of the chair of a regular meeting "sits in," disruption almost
inevitably results, and it's usually invisible to the visitor. Here are some of the risks of sitting
in on the meetings of your subordinates.
- Failure Foreordained
- Performance Improvement Plans help supervisors guide their subordinates toward improved performance.
But they can also be used to develop documentation to support termination. How can subordinates tell
whether a PIP is a real opportunity to improve?
- The Artful Shirker
- Most people who shirk work are fairly obvious about it, but some are so artful that the people around
them don't realize what's happening. Here are a few of the more sophisticated shirking techniques.
- The Costanza Matrix
- The Seinfeld character "George Costanza" is famous for having said, "It's not a lie if
you believe it." What if you don't believe it and it's true? Some musings.
- Congruent Decision-Making: I
- Decision-makers who rely on incomplete or biased information are more likely to make faulty decisions.
Congruent decision-making can limit the incidence of bad decisions.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 11: The Rhyme-as-Reason Effect
- When we speak or write, the phrases we use have both form and meaning. Although we usually think of form and meaning as distinct, we tend to assess as more meaningful and valid those phrases that are more beautifully formed. The rhyme-as-reason effect causes us to confuse the validity of a phrase with its aesthetics. Available here and by RSS on December 11.
- And on December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.