I decided to share on this topic today because during the week i had an opportunity to reconnect with someone I have known for a while but i had not spoken to for several months. This person told me the challenges they were facing at their work place where they have been for more than two decades (can you believe that?). So lets call the person i reconnected with LostFriend.
LostFriend has had a very difficult time over the last few months. In the pressure to meet objectives as we approach year end, her line manager has become very unreasonable and demanding unachievable things from LostFriend. LostFriend has a team of 5 surbodinates reporting to her. Her line manager has asked these surbodinates to report directly to him. His reason being LostFriend is no longer good at her job and is ‘messing up’ too much. Its not only LostFriend’s line manager who has turned hostile. A few other managers have started complaining about her work. A lot of ‘bad’ things have been said about LostFriend most times without her having an opportunity to defend herself. I have known Lostfriend since I started working. Even though we do not work for the same organisation, I have learnt a lot from her. I can therefore confirm that she knows her job very well but has become a victim of ‘office political manoeuvres’. My own assessment of the situation is that her boss is threatened by her.
Wether you like it or not, office politcs exists so do not burry your head in the sand and pretend. The simple definition that we can give for office politcs is ‘ the strategies work collegues employ to gain either personal advantage or visibility or sponsorship of their projects’. I believe there is bad politics and good politics. My response to LostFriend was to give her strategies to manage the bad political manoeuvres against her and also play the good politcs game to her advantage. Another name that we can give to good politicking is ‘stakeholder management. Here is a summary of what i shared with my friend.
1. When negative things are being said about you as was in LostFriend’s case, do not just watch your reputation being massacred and do nothing about it. Find a way to defend yourself. My advice to her was to have a closed door session with the CEO to give him her side of the story. She did this as soon as she got the opportunity. The feedback she gave me after this discussion was positive. The CEO now had a balanced view of the story and was in a more informed position. This was especially important because LostFriend’s line manager has more access to the CEO being a direct report. He was therefore using every opportunity he got with the CEO to push his agenda. In this case probably to frustrate LostFriend to leave or even get her fired. I must warn here that it is very important to tread carefully. Your discussion should not be about complaining but of stating facts as they are. Above all remember to remain calm.
2. In addition to the above, you need to find influential allies within the organisation who would also speak good things about you even in your absence. I am not talking about manipulating people to further your cause. I am talking about building genuine relationships based on respect and trust. Do not wait for issues to flare up before you build your network. Below are key considerations as you build your network.
- Who are the real influencers i.e based on hierachy, respect or authority?
- Who is genuiney interested in your career development and progress?
3. As much as it is important to have a network of key allies, do not be part of any clique. If such cliques exist within your organisation, do not align yourselve to any one or another of them. In other words, just be friendly with everyone. The role of your network is for the following:
- Gain access to information that you would not necessarily get.
- Build visibility of your achievements. LostFriend put this to use as soon as I shared it with her. She had just received a big order that helped to reduce the gap they had on their targets. As she called me celebrating, I immediately asked her to inform her key allies just as a casual conversation. Before the day was over, the CEO was calling her to thank her for helping meet targets. Clearly someone in her network felt it was a crucial achievement and the CEO had to know.
- Attract opportunities where you can to shine.
Do not use your network to gossip, spread rumors, whine or complain or any such nagative things.
In governance of countries, not exercising your political right to vote does not mean a leader will not be elected. It’s the same with office politcs. Your decision not to participate or ignore does not mean decisions will not be made. Indeed decisions will be made and they might affect you negatively. I am sure the strategies above will help you manage the negative political manoeuvres against you as well as gain advantage for your projects.
Lets keep the conversation going.