In this episode, we’re going to pick up from where we left off last time to talk more about office politics, because, unfortunately, there’s always more to talk about. And we’ll focus a little more here on how to deal with them.

Show Notes:

  • The Problem with the World is that the Intelligent People are Full of Doubts While the Stupid Ones are Full of Confidence.

— Charles Bukowski, Author, Renegade, Drunkard, Dirty Old Man

  1. Confidence keeps you doing the right things
  2. Office politicians manipulate our insecurities
  • Run Like Hell from the Self-Proclaimed ‘Keeper of the Culture’
    1. Those who talk the most about culture often live it the least
    2. They can be dangerous, but you’re not defenseless
  • Earn Your Black Belt in Verbal Jujitsu
    1. Jujitsu uses your opponent’s weight and strength as weapons against him/her
    2. Their hollow words can be used against them
  • You Can’t Prove Intent
    1. Weasel words are how weasels weasel out of responsibility
    2. This is how to get around HR
  • Politics Is Not a Dirty Word—Necessarily
    1. Not all politics are dirty and ignoble
    2. Those who play them the right way need your support
  • If You Try to Win, You’ll Lose
    1. Become obsessed with politics and they will trip you up
    2. Don’t let self-righteousness be your downfall
  • It’s Not Your Boss Who Protects You, It’s Your Boss’ Boss
    1. Bad bosses try to defend their turf by cutting others off from their direct report
    2. Don’t go over your boss’ head, but do establish a repertoire with those above your boss
  • Settle It Over a Beer
    1. Try not to immediately go over someone’s head when you have a problem with them
    2. Go outside your usual work environment for real discussion
  • Don’t Do Something Permanently Stupid Just Because You Are Temporarily Upset
    1. Anger is understandable, sometimes justified
    2. Don’t let it cause long-term language
  • Sometimes, You Have to Give Up on People,

           Not Because You Don’t Care but Because They Don’t Care

  1. Sometimes, it’s hard to leave people you care for
  2. Sometimes, you just have to for your sake. Because sometimes there is no turning things around.

Transcript:

Welcome to Episode 2 of Navigating the Fustercluck—a podcast full of snackable insights to help you navigate the love/hate world of creativity.

My name is Wegs, like eggs with a W, joining you from Deaf Mule Studios in Dallas, and whether you work in advertising, design, gaming, fine art, commercial art, content creation, whatever it may be, we’re here with Part 2 of our exploration of office politics. We’re talking about it more, because there’s always more!

So here’s the unfortunate truth….

The Problem with the World is that the Intelligent People are Full of Doubts While the Stupid Ones are Full of Confidence.

— Charles Bukowski, Author, Renegade, Drunkard, Dirty Old Man

Does that ring true to you? Painfully true?

Beware the bullying blowhards and bloviators trying to steamroll you. Those forceful personalities who make you second-guess yourself. At their core, creative types are strong, yet burdened by lingering insecurities. Either consciously or unconsciously, office bullies prey on this. Often pressuring you for your immediate support or a snap answer that may become a long-term trap. Hold off their bullying the best you can. Taking the time to formulate the right answer is not being indecisive, it’s being smart. And every time you hold your ground, you build muscle. Eventually, they’ll either come to respect you or fear you.

Run Like Hell from the Self-Proclaimed ‘Keeper of the Culture’

No one person owns your company’s culture. And while leadership has a role in forming it, culture is not a department or committee to be assigned to any one individual. In fact, anyone referring to himself as The Keeper of the Culture, well, you can almost guarantee that this person knows all the right things to say, and that’s about it. In such hands, culture becomes weaponized. Clash with the keeper, and you’re against the culture, pegged as a misfit, while the Keeper has come to believe that he is in fact the physical embodiment of the culture itself.

Earn Your Black Belt in Verbal Jujitsu

Jujitsu uses your opponent’s weight and strength as weapons against him. Like the seemingly impenetrable wall of bullshit office politicians shield themselves with. You know…

We’re one team (as long as you obey me.)

We’re like family (until the layoffs, of course.)

We’re all about diversity (but don’t dare point out our lack of it.)

The solution? Use their words against them. Want something? Frame it around their stated values. Since we’re all dedicated to diversity, let’s start a minority mentoring program. Like that, they’ll have a hard time turning you down. Works great on Keepers of the Culture.

You Can’t Prove Intent

Oh, I forgot to CC you? Sorry.

(Sorry you found out. Is more like it.)

I thought you would appreciate me lightening your load.

(Granted, he stuck you with all the crap accounts.)

You hate your new space? That’s quite a popular area.

(Of course, the desk right outside the bathroom door always sees high foot traffic.)

No, you can’t prove intent. That’s why passive aggressiveness is the HR friendly form of abuse. But don’t engage in it. Politely call it out. And expect the other person to deny it. At least they’ll be put on notice and will eventually curb their behavior.

Politics Is Not a Dirty Word—Necessarily

Hero. Genius. Rockstar. Politician… One of these things is not like the other. Or so it would seem. Yet Lincoln was a politician. Mandela, too. Not all politicians are alike, office politicians included. True, good ones are rare, but they exist. They listen. They care. They’re not perfect, but they’re willing to stick their necks out for the greater good. If you don’t possess such skills, support those who do. Be patient with them. It takes time and energy to try to turn an organization around. Go find your allies. Protect one another. There is strength in numbers.

If You Try to Win, You’ll Lose

Overcoming office politics is not about “winning.” It’s about making things better. Making the culture better. Making the work better. Take on an overtly competitive mindset and you’re likely to start saying careless things and doing stupid stuff. You start rushing the result you want, and that’s not usually a good look. It reeks of desperation. Even people who agree with you don’t want any part of the uncomfortable awkwardness of self-righteousness. You’ve got to stay patient.

It’s Not Your Boss Who Protects You, It’s Your Boss’ Boss

Don’t go over your boss’ head but do get to know your boss’ boss. It’s good for her to see who you are, and good for you that she gets a sense of your worth. Someone in that position probably has knowledge to impart, too. Still, focus primarily on your boss. Will she piss you off sometimes? Absolutely. Disappoint you? Uh-huh. And guess what, you’re not perfect, either. Don’t make things worse by complaining. Accept reality, while working to make things better. And without giving away all the credit, try to make your boss look good. You’ll both benefit.

Settle It Over a Beer

If you’re not seeing eye-to-eye with someone, stop muttering under your breath and try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes styles and personalities need time to gel together. Open up the lines of communication. Ask him to join you for a coffee or beer. Let him know what you like about him so far, and that you want to work even better with him. He’ll either open up and you’ll make progress, or you can go back to muttering under your breath, until you find another chance to improve things.

Don’t Do Something Permanently Stupid Just Because You Are Temporarily Upset

Unresolved frustrations can grow and grow and grow. Just know, the politicians waiting for you to explode. Just don’t let them get the best of you. Don’t blow your top in a meeting. Don’t send that email. Don’t give them the excuse they need to take you out. Count to ten. Take a walk. Grab a cup of coffee. Fight for your people, but don’t make it a war. It’s not easy. When I started, I didn’t always follow my own advice. And I suffered the consequences, so please don’t fall into the same trap. Breathe. Regroup. Go forward.

Let’s Take a Short Breather…

…We’re here at Deaf Mule Studios to remind everyone that this is Navigating the Fustercluck. And I’m Wegs, your world-weary host hoping that you can avoid many of the mistakes I’ve made during my otherwise adventurous career. Now back to the broadcast, or narrowcast with one final thought of office politics:

Sometimes, You Have to Give Up on People, 

Not Because You Don’t Care but Because They Don’t Care

It’s hard to leave people you love. Or a place with a lot of potential. And no one wants to be labeled a quitter. But sometimes you just have to move on. As they say, people don’t quit their company, they quit their boss. It’s just a fact. Toxic is toxic. And enough is enough. And leaving a toxic situation doesn’t make you weak. Nor does it mean that they “won.” It means that life is too short to stick around people that aren’t interested in the success and happiness of other people.

Well, that about wraps up our second episode of Navigating the Fustercluck.

I’m your host, Wegs, like eggs with a W, here at Deaf Mule Studios. And that indeed is our 2nd show. Thanks for listening in. Until then, please feel free to reach out to us on Twitter at Navigating F. And remember, we’re all in this together. Here’s to you. Here’s to the future.