I have a dilemma when it comes to working in my office. I am employed by a large Temp Agency and applied for a position as a payroll clerk near my home. The hours were great and it was only a 20 minute commute each way, instead of an hour. This worked out great for my young children as I could spend more time with them.
In my search for a job such as this, a friend of mine was also searching for a new position as her paycheques were starting to go NSF. As this job posting listed that they were looking for 2 people, I naturally thought of her. I suggested to her to talk to the Temp Agency and hence, we both got the positions. These positions have an excellent chance of becoming permanent.
We have been working there for 4 months together, and throughout this time, there has been talk of the company possibly only hiring one of us permanently. Ever since this talk started, my friend has made me feel like I have to compete with her for the position. (I am very confident that they will hire both as there is just too much work.)
My feelings are that she has no respect for my professionalism and my skills and qualifications. We have to check each others work, and if I have made a mistake, she calls it out across the room. If she has made a mistake, I talk to her about it at the privacy of her desk. When she brings work back to me for correction, she just tosses it in my in-basket – instead of just setting it there properly. I don’t do these things to her and I don’t know how to handle this problem. If I talk to her, I know by her personality, that it will just create more problems.
And now, for some reason, I feel completely ostracized by others in the office. Please give me some tips on how I can learn how to play the office politics game so that I can get through this!
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY FRANKE JAMES
Dear Office-Politics Newbie,
Thanks for your letter. What a sad turn of events when you were the person who gave your friend a helping hand back to employment!
You had your friend’s best interests in mind when you connected her to the Temporary opportunity. Unfortunately, you can see by her actions that she does not have your best interests in mind, and does not share your values. This type of behavior reminds me of the television show, Survivor, when the contestants turn on the other contestants in order to grab the prize for themselves. Does the workplace have to be like this? I would say NO. Through some careful positioning and use of positive buzz you may end up winning the job — but if you don’t, it won’t be because you acted unethically. And you may open up the door to a bigger opportunity.
To win in your workplace you have to keep the best interests of the company top of mind. What your employer would love to see is that all employees are happy, do their job well, help the company prosper and never cause trouble. This doesn’t sound realistic does it? But it would certainly make life happier for everyone if it could be achieved. With the right strategy you can improve the harmony in the office.
I am going to suggest a tactic that may surprise you. But you have nothing to lose by trying this approach, and everything to gain. What you need to do is focus on being positive and being nice — to everyone, to your Bosses, to your coworkers, and even to your ‘friend’.
You may be skeptical and think this is naive. But I assure you, it is not. Aside from my own real-world experience confirming it, this advice has been handed down by legions of self-help gurus for years. Dale Carnegie was one of the first. Why? Because it works and it makes sense. People like to work with people they like, and who are pleasant to be around. One of the smartest, and most inspirational books published this year is The Power of Nice (How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness), by ad gurus, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. I’ll be interviewing Linda on the site this month. Both of these women are experts in PR and marketing, and they know that being nice can be the most powerful weapon of all in the workplace. If you have a library nearby, I recommend you read it. It will inspire you.
Your goal is to make everyone in the office realize that you are genuinely nice, trustworthy, dependable and a competent, hard worker. Make this the mantra that runs through your head, “I am a positive force in the office. I am a pleasure to have around. I do my job well.”
I want you to make a list of 10 nice things you can do around the office for various people. Bring in homemade cookies to share. Make coffee. Clean the office mugs without being asked. File papers. Compliment someone, but make sure it’s genuine and not empty flattery. Don’t just pick one person. Spread your niceness around. Small kindnesses can rapidly transform your workplace into a much more pleasant environment. And it will make you happier, too.
You can’t straighten out your friend. But you can improve your image in the office, through one small kindness after another. Gradually you will be generating positive buzz and weakening the influence of your ‘friend’.
Why am I so convinced this strategy will work? Put yourself in your Boss’ shoes. Who would you rather give the job too — a worker who was pleasant, trustworthy, and spread good cheer around the office? Or a worker who is rude and creates discord? Don’t imagine for a minute that other people aren’t wincing when they hear her shout out a small error you’ve made! If it were me making the decision, I’d choose you. Take heart. Your attitude will help you to succeed.
Thanks for writing to Office-Politics. Please let us know how it goes. I want to hear back from you on how you turned this around.
Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com
Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.