Jan 20, 2012

Winning In The Work Place

There are few people who’ll argue with you when you say politics in the work place leaves a bitter taste in your coffee. Yet co-workers have been known to get at each other’s throats after the slightest altercation. For example, one disgruntled employee once explained to me that he had followed due procedure when laying a complaint against another noisy employee. Somehow the details of his complaint reached the noisy one and that increased stress in the work place for him.

The fact that his duly followed procedure was leaked in such a manner is exactly the kind of office politics that leave many burnt. Let’s look at ways to win in the game of office politics and come out unscathed and perhaps better for it.

Fight or Flight Instinctive Behaviour

Fight or flight is a common response in nature; to either face a problem head on or bolt for the hills. The work place is no different; when dealing with a problem we have the choice to either fight it by lodging a complaint or taking matters into our own hands or flight by ignoring it and hoping it’ll go away. In some cases instinctively fighting will have you labelled as a troublemaker while avoiding the situation will have you labelled as a pushover; it seems you’re in a no-win situation. However thinking strategically about the specific situation and following your instinct with logic will see you overcoming potential bullying at the work place.

Choose Your Resolution

If an altercation occurs it can be a challenge to hold back on your feelings and emotions. We tend to lash out and say things we’ll definitely regret later. When a situation arises we need to think about what exactly we want to achieve. Do we want to resolve the issue and move on or do we want to totally destroy our opponent and ‘get our own back’? If you response is the latter then you might emerge the winner in the short-run but this may also lead to a long-term reputation loss. We need to focus on what we hope to accomplish.

The Circle of Influence

In our jobs we all have responsibility given to us, people we answer to and people who answer to us. This is our circle of influence, step outside of this circle and you’re in alien territory that is not too friendly to the average fire-starter. Dealing with problems that arise exclusively within your circle of influence is the best way to sort out issues of discrimination in the work place efficiently and without nuclear fallout. Also, one big thing to keep in mind above all in this situation is to NEVER take sides lest you find yourself alone pushed into a corner.

Don't Get Personal

One final piece of advice is almost a film cliché, don’t take things personally and don’t let things get personal. When Sally is giving you a hard time about the low quality of your work and you just happen to know she’s gone through a rough divorce. The best way to be labelled a tyrant in the work place is to rebut her criticism of your work by mentioning that at least were more loyal to your keyboard than her husband was to her. 

An extreme example to be sure, but to ensure your reputation in the work place isn’t threatened by a firm slap in the face, never let things get personal. Work place regulations hardly cover how to handle this sort of situation, but common sense dictates that if someone critiques your work it’s got nothing to do with who you are.

Good luck traversing the dangers of the work place, but keep in mind that sometimes you simply have to get your hands dirty and play ball.

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