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How do I work with a snake?

Dear Office-Politics,

I would be very interested in your advice for this situation.

There is a new women working in our office now. This women was hired to work for the new director of our department however he has not moved his new office to our location yet. It has been over six months.

Well this women obviously doesn’t have enough work to do because she keeps asking me about mine. She will ask what are you doing or are you working on? Then she will say that I should show her how or different things about my job so she can help. She says that she can only show me certain things of her job because it is off limits. I don’t want to get caught up in playing some stupid office politics but I fear she may be trying to undermine my work to advance her position.

She is almost young enough to be my daughter, but I can tell she thinks she knows everything. An example is I was off a couple of days ill, I am not sure what is wrong with me but I suspect maybe female problems. My doctor has been running some tests. I told her about it, maybe stupidity on my part. She starts stating that she thinks I should just go ahead and have a hysterectomy and on and on. I know I need some lessons in assertiveness but I stood there listening to her go on and on thinking ‘Omg when is she going to stop.’ Boy it sure is easy for her to say these things.

Am I just being paranoid or should I just let it go? I mean maybe she is smarter then me and could handle some things better. I do have more then my share of duties but I just know that the work she would get, would be the work I don’t need help with. I always seem to get the work no one else wants to do or that doesn’t get promotions or salary increases.

Thanks,

No Snake charmer

OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY TIMOTHY JOHNSON
timothy johnson

Dear No Snake charmer,

Wow… it sounds like you’ve assessed the situation pretty well. This new woman in your office appears to be a snake, and by all accounts I think assessment of her motivations could be accurate. My only recommendations to you would be to proceed with caution. No, I don’t think you are paranoid. No, I don’t think you should just let it go, either. You should, however, proceed with caution. If she asks about specific procedures with your job, one possible reply might be, “Thank you for showing interest in my job. We’ve worked hard to build in back-up procedures to cover for each other here, and I’m sure you are too busy to concern yourself with the details of my responsibilities. It sounds like you may want to share more of your job with us, though, as you may not have a good risk management plan in place yet.”

As for her medical advice, just let her know that you are under the care of a very competent physician, but you will let him/her know of the recommendations as you are considering all options. Then just don’t tell her anything along those lines any more.

As for you, it sounds like you may need to consider some rebranding of your own job and reputation if you have simply become the dumping ground of unwanted activity in the office. I think there is a time and a place for utility players, but if your work is not very fulfilling or rewarding, you may need to consider asking for more challenging assignments or volunteering for more high profile projects to boost your own stock within the office. Too many people wait for things to happen to them rather than making their own destiny. It’s time for you to consider accepting new challenges.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.com,

Timothy Johnson, Author

Timothy Johnson is the author of the newly released Gust: The “Tale” Wind of Office Politics (Lexicon, 2007) as well as Race Through The Forest – A Project Management Fable (Tiberius, 2006). As Chief Accomplishment Officer for his company, Carpe Factum, Inc. (Latin for “Seize The Accomplishment”), he also is a dynamic speaker, providing keynotes and workshops on the accomplishment-oriented topics of project management, creativity, process improvement, systems thinking, and (of course) office politics. His consulting clients have crossed multiple industries and have included Wells Fargo, Harley-Davidson, ING, Teva NeuroScience, and Principal Financial Group. In addition to writing, consulting, speaking, and coaching, he is also an adjunct instructor for Drake University’s MBA program in Des Moines Iowa, teaching classes in Project Management, Creativity for Business, and Managing Office Politics.

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  1. One Answer to “How do I work with a snake?”

  2. Thanks for your response and advice. I have been proceeding with caution and things have kind of quieted down but I will continue to be cautious. I really like your reply suggestion. I am going to rehearse it a few times to commit it to memory.

    I will now try to focus more on asking for more challenging assignments. Although I have already, but I really think my supervisor likes me just where I am. Quite frankly I don’t think he could get anyone to do everything I do, especially for the pay I get. I volunteer ideas and work all the time. I was feeling a little guilty because I needed a day off so I volunteered today to prepare a spreadsheet for someone else’s work to help them organize urgent information that my supervisor needed. I even did most of the work on my own to help them save time. After I was done I was thinking, now is this another stupid mistake that is going to be assigned to my duties on top of everything else I already have to do. I know I need to work on promoting myself. I do appreciate your response very much.

    By Letter Writer on May 11, 2007

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