A Simple Tip for Managing Office Politics

When you start a new job it is wise to learn the office politics – the personalities – of the new office. First impressions count and so spending that first month ensuring that people like you and find you amenable could make all the difference to being let go and getting promoted quickly. This article offers some simple tips to help set you in the right direction.

By Don Goodman

Recently, I coached a few people who lost their jobs due to “office politics”. These cases stood out because a few basic tips could have helped the people involved avoid losing their jobs.

Another name for office politics is “personalities”. There are personalities in every company and everyone has to be aware of the wants, desires and goals of the key influencers and decision makers that affect your career. In the most glaring case I handled, a woman joined a company and was very excited about the opportunities there. In her first week, a man saw her at the copier and asked her if she would make copies for him. She turned around and said, “Why, can’t you make your own copies?”

The Water Cooler Effect
Now the man wasn’t exactly a vice president or a decision maker, but he had been there for over five years and was quite popular. He started spreading the word that she was a “b****”. Whenever anyone asked about the new girl, they then got that description.

To top it off, our woman – who had been described by the company president as a real “go-getter” – was perceived as a threat by another woman who had been there fifteen years and was normally the president’s pet. The bottom-line? After one week, the president let her go because he felt it “wasn’t a good fit”.

Now I have run into mean, nasty, purposely-deceptive politics. This was not that. This was nothing more then the water cooler effect at work. So what should the client have done?

That Crucial First Month
Simple: follow this rule. On your first month on the job, your primary task is to get people to like you. It’s not to impress them with your talent (although that’s good too), but rather to get people to want to collaborate and associate with you. It’s time to build relationships that will help you on the job. My advice is to build relationships with everyone, not just the “important people”.

What do you think would have happened if the word had been spread that “She’s really nice and smart”? Remember this tip on your next job and your transition into the firm will be that much easier.

Don Goodman is the president of About Jobs and is a recognised career coach and CV/resume writer. A graduate of the Wharton School of Business and Stanford University's Executive Program, Don has helped thousands of people secure their next job. More information can be found at www.GotTheJob.com and he can be contacted at dgoodman@GotTheJob.com.

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