I have to admit that I know nothing about office politics and have made some horrible mistakes — the main one of being totally honest and pulling away and being seen as arrogant. After working for 16 years for a small company, I was forced by the owner to leave. He called me in one day and said that I had had trouble with almost every other coworker. This was not true and my coworkers did not want me to leave the company. Although I knew why he was doing this — because he had decided to sell this business and I was a six figure income expense — I told him on the second office call that I would not walk into this again and would leave the company. He was so overjoyed that he could hardly keep his composure. With my income expense gone, it made the company seem much more profitable for an interested buyer.
I then went to work for a large chain corporation and found myself in a pool of sharks where state regulations were being looked upon with great disdain and the climate was ethically horrid. I am a woman in her forties and found myself being lied about by a twenty something coworker. I discovered through company email to our immediate supervisor that this young woman was claiming that I was breaking the law and making clients angry (she actually accused me of what was happening with her). The emails contained winks and other innuendos which appeared to relay some form of relationship with this man.
To say the least, I got scared and ran but not before I made a huge mistake of calling human resources — they were just as corrupt as the rest of the company. Recently I started a new job and am trying to be friendly but not give away any personal information about myself and just fit it. I do not want any more problems but do not want to seem too distant either. On my third day, a coworker (who is my equal) asked me to do something blatantly against the law and I refused. When I did this, he said it was the company policy and ranted for the next three hours — calling the supervisor and other colleagues to discuss the matter.
Please help me. I need to know how to survive and keep my job because I am not in a position to start my own business.
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY DR. MARTY SELDMAN AND JOSHUA SELDMAN
Your letter seems to indicate that you have some important values and strengths. These include high standards, honesty and a clear sense of integrity coupled with the “courage of your convictions.”
Unfortunately, as you have seen, now in three different situations, these “strengths” can become liabilities, or at least vulnerabilities.
In Executive Stamina, we discuss the four elements of finding your career “sweet spot”, a role in which you will find success and satisfaction. These four elements are:
Competence: what you are good at
Enjoyment: what you love to do
Deep Interest: what you are continually curious about
Meaning: what fits with your values
This last component relating to values is what we suggest you focus on more proactively.
There are some people whose values are almost non-existent. For example, Groucho Marx once remarked, “These are my principles. If you don’t like these, I have some others I can show you.” Someone with these ‘flexible’ principles can actually work anywhere because they are unlikely to have a values conflict or integrity concerns. Their company’s products and services may not benefit society, their company may deceive consumers, etc and it won’t bother them.
Obviously, you are at the other end of the continuum. So, for you, it is vitally important to really investigate the type of company you join and maybe even the type of industry in which it resides. Companies that provide beneficial products and services, treat their employees respectfully and are good corporate citizens in their communities are a good place to start.
Of course, this advice applies if you move on from your current situation. If you stay, we suggest that you do some personal reflection. Are you too “black and white” in your thinking, with little room for “gray”? Are you too quick to label something an “integrity issue”? Please investigate, with curiosity and an open mind, what are your company and industry norms. It is possible that you may find some room for flexibility on your part that would allow you to stay. If not, your situation becomes increasingly difficult because your co-workers will feel you are accusing them of having low integrity. If you can’t find a compromise you can live with, please do the research to find an organization that matches your values. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.com.
Good luck in finding your “sweet spot”,
Marty and Joshua
Marty Seldman, Ph.D. and Joshua Seldman
Co-authors, Executive Stamina
ABOUT EXECUTIVE STAMINA
Marty Seldman, Ph.D. and Joshua Seldman, are Co-authors of Executive Stamina: How to optimize time, energy and productivity to achieve peak performance. In Executive Stamina, you’ll learn all the skills, techniques, and positive practices needed to create a sustainable path to achieve your full career potential. Renowned executive coach Marty Seldman and endurance coach Joshua Seldman will introduce you to the revolutionary training system they’ve used with great success on top executives and endurance athletes. You’ll find hundreds of tips and tools that will help you maximize your career potential, while maintaining your health, staying in touch with your values, and avoiding costly tradeoffs in your personal life.