Erika Andersen is the author of BEING STRATEGIC, and an Office-Politics Adviser since 2007. Her new book, BEING STRATEGIC, is a roadmap for consistently making choices that best move you toward your desired future. What’s more, it explains why being strategic is worth the time and effort required, what’s involved, and how to do it. Erika is founder of Proteus International, where she has served as consultant and adviser to CEO’s and top executives around the world.
Read Erika’s response: “Scarred by office politics, how do we move on?”
Dear Office Politics,
I have been unemployed for a year. I was laid off, but in reality lost my job because of an office mobbing. My opinion is that office politics is not a game. It has real consequences.
I worked for a company that “laid-off” four key personnel who had 48 years total with the company. I had been marginalized by two women in the company who were not my superiors and they fed information to the operations manager. She was overwhelmed and did not give me the opportunity to defend myself. They also led a whisper campaign that I was not aware of. I was excelling with the company and had a very good relationship with the CEO until they set their trap. These two women decided to send an email to the CEO. The got the operations manager to sign it. Two co-workers refused to sign it. I was laid off 3 months later.
It took me awhile to put all of this together. Being unemployed allowed me ample time to think about it. I am currently starting a business and have attempted to take on two partners who were also laid off. The problem is that we are all so scarred by the experience that we barely have the trust in each other to work together. One of the partners is employing the same tactics that were used by the old company. He has discredited me to the other partner. My point is that office politics can be psychologically damaging after you leave.
What do you recommend that I do to get past this? It seems apparent that one partner is not going to work with me and the other is wavering. It seems clear to me that we have taken the same toxic culture of our past employer with us. Your thoughts would be appreciated. For your own information, the company that I worked for is set up as flat organization. In my opinion, this makes in the perfect environment for toxic office politics.
OFFICE-POLITICS ADVISER ERIKA ANDERSEN
Dear Broken Trust,
I couldn’t agree with you more – negative office politics can definitely have real consequences, including psychological and career damage.
So, how do you, in your words, “get past this”? I have two suggestions: first, use what happened at your old company as a case study in what not to do. Second, explicitly build a trusting culture in your own, new company.
Here’s what I mean by “using what happened.” I had a very similar experience leaving the company I worked for, 20 years ago, to start my own company – my boss was a very poor manager and leader; there was lots of gossip, back-biting, misinformation. He said things to others about me that were untrue and unprofessional. Promises were made to me and to others – and then broken.
I left under my own power, versus being let go, but it was still a truly awful experience. I started my own company with a partner who had also left the previous company. We sat down together and laid out all the negative things that had happened – not just to complain or feel superior, but to see what we could learn from it. We used our experience to decide how to set up our company so that those things wouldn’t happen. Our experience helped us make new, clear agreements about a wide variety of things that we would do differently: communication, compensation, taking on new people, reviewing performance, etc. It was very useful – and extremely empowering; it helped us recognize that we needn’t be limited or defeated by our past experience.
And as for building a trusting culture in your own company, I’d strongly recommend the book The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M.R. Covey (he’s the son of the Stephen Covey everyone knows). Covey outlines very clearly and elegantly what makes us trust or not trust others, and how to explore the level of trust in your relationships and build on what you have now. I suspect you and your prospective partners (or any other people you might consider partnering with) would find it a really valuable framework for having discussions about trust and how to build – or re-build – it.
Finally, know that this will take time. Mental and emotional wounds take time to heal, just like physical ones. But, like physical wounds, they heal more quickly if you balance between enough care and enough use: you don’t want to over-tax the hurt place, but you don’t want to over-coddle it, either. In your case, I think that translates to: work to re-build your trust in professional relationships, but don’t beat yourself up if you feel a bit gun-shy and need more clarity and assurances of good faith than usual for awhile.
Hope this helps! Thanks for writing to OfficePolitics.com.
Erika Andersen, Author
Erika Andersen is the author of BEING STRATEGIC (May 2009). Talk of strategy abounds in business — but moving from thinking strategically to acting strategically is an enormous leap. BEING STRATEGIC is a roadmap for consistently making choices that best move you toward your desired future. What’s more, it explains why being strategic is worth the time and effort required, what’s involved, and how to do it. The book explains the core skills and practices needed at each point of being strategic and provides simple models, real-life examples and self-directed activities for learning and applying them.
Erika Andersen is founder of Proteus International, where she has served as consultant and adviser to CEO’s and top executives around the world. She is the also the author of Growing Great Employees, published by Portfolio in 2006.