I’m currently struggling with office politics in our Department. I am an Engineering graduate and have a position of a Technical Supervisor.
My problem is that there are some Senior employees & supervisors who do not have college degrees that don’t want to be left behind when it comes to promotions. So they’ve been sabotaging my career by obliging me to do typing jobs (which is not a part of my job and no other supervisors are doing it). They’re giving implied instructions to junior employees not to stick with me which prevents me from having allies.
My manager — who is also insecure, and is not an engineering board exam passer, and doesn’t have an MBA — also wants to keep the political situation that way. These are backstabbers. I’ve already served the company by working as a supervisor, and as a secretary, because they don’t want to hire another secretary to save cost. Although, being a supervisor, I know that the company is earning big profits in the industry. What shall I do with these people?? I know that they don’t want me to be their boss because I’m 10 yrs. + younger than them. I’m currently taking a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management and I’m 38 yrs. old.
Should I change careers? Look for another company? How can I overcome them? My situation is very stressful and they’re acting like a sabotaging psychopath.
Please help me. I want to know your opinion.
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY DR. RICK BRANDON AND DR. MARTY SELDMAN
Thanks and “we feel your pain!” as Bill Clinton used to say. It’s often tough when people resent or are threatened by accomplishments of younger people so they attempt to plateau their careers. This, of course, assumes that you are correct in your assessment. Assuming you are correct, we would suggest several pathways:
1) Do not automatically change careers just because of disappointment at one company. What a shame for the industry to lose a competent person. That would mean your colleagues win and both you AND the field you’ve selected lose.
2) Whether or not to leave the company is premature since we first recommend taking action or else you never know the outcome. The worse that can happen is that your efforts to fix the problem do not work, but you’re no worse off than now! You cannot lose what you do not currently have! So you might as well try the following points.
3) Try to identify other people with power who can help you. We doubt that all supervisors in the organization would endorse blatant blocking of you doing your real job if they know what’s going on, so identify possible allies. Check with Human Resources confidentially regarding your official job description so they can say if your official job description is being violated. Of course, you need to first make sure you have powerful allies who care about doing the right thing because once you “raise the stakes,” there is no turning back.
4) That’s why we strongly recommend being extremely careful about the words you use when talking to the people you are wronging you, to other potential allies, or to HR, etc. Do not give anyone ammunition against you by losing your cool or using accusatory language like “backstabbers,” “sabotaging,” “insecure,” or “psychopaths.”
Even though you might be justified, it will only paint a picture of you as being a name caller or unprofessional. Just use the business issue at hand, which is that you do not believe typing is a part of your job and that the company can benefit more from applying your talents and know-how in more valuable contributions, etc., and do NOT label anyone else’s hidden agendas, ulterior motives, or feelings and emotions about you, OK? This will prevent you from being hurt more.
The worse that can happen is that your efforts will not achieve your goals. Then and only then, think about other organizations. But only after exhausting all avenues where you are now, especially since you say there are potential rewards and profits at your current job. You never know how things might turn out so don’t jump ship just yet.
We wish you well as you navigate these political waters with savvy and verbal discipline. Good luck, and we wish you success! Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success
Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.
Publication note: This letter was originally published in 2005. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.