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The friend, I helped, has now turned on me…

Dear Office-Politics,

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!

Sincerely,

Office-Politics Newbie

OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY FRANKE JAMES
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

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.

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  1. 3 Answers to “The friend, I helped, has now turned on me…”

  2. My initial response is that what you said makes complete sense.

    Since I read what you wrote to me, I have put the niceness into play. I have found a somewhat interesting reaction.

    My supervisor (who thinks my friend does no wrong), is still making me feel incompetent and directs comments directly at me with her eyes, however, my friend and others have responded in a slightly positive manner. I am hoping, in time, to have the same impact on my supervisor.

    It’s a shame that things like this have to happen, because this is the first job that I have truly enjoyed in all of my working life. Thank-you so much for responding and I hope that my situation (when you post it) will help others. You should really charge for your advice! Much indebted. Newbie

    By Letter-writer on Mar 9, 2007

  3. Thanks for the information. I have encountered this situation recently myself. What I think though, is that in some cases, some people it doesn’t matter how nice you are; they will resent you for something, your skills, education, whatever.

    I was in a situation where I look back, and the woman I was being trained by was doing things in a less-efficient way, using the mouse to drag-highlight-copy-paste etc, and I showed her the CTRL + C, CTRL + V method, and she just stared. Other shortcuts, she wanted nothing to do with. I was shown other time-saving tips by one other coworker, who left on her own, and I began to use them to help me out, and then I tried to share all of these with this one woman, who I came to feel resented me because I seemed to know more than she did, or was more comfortable using these features. She would mislead me with information also, being vague, hoping I would take it one way, but knowing I should be doing something different. Always wanting to communicate with me on the phone, verbally. Then she began to confront me after hours, with no witnesses, and was very rude and accusatory, but always smiling and talking nice to everyone. I could see her true character: a bully. It was a no-win situation for me, and we met with the supervisor and manager, but they excused her behavior, while holding me accountable. It was a temp company, and I think this dynamic sets a slightly different stage for office politics, as no one really works for the main company, so everyone is out to protect their job, and the others who will help them protect it. Temp agencies just want to keep the contract, so it ignores its own written policy about things. I think they felt I could go anyplace with my skills, while they had been there for a few years, and didn’t appear to me to be interested in leaving. So I had to go. I received many great compliments from the people in the “real” company we contracted for, but they were detached from what was going on in the temp’s area. What can you do when people just have an axe to grind, and they are determined to grind it on you?

    By Debbie on Jun 4, 2007

  4. I go with Debbie: with some people, it simply does not matter how nice you are. Sometimes, it might even end up backfiring (some perceive kindness as a sign of weakness).

    Nevertheless, I don’t see what else Newbie could do to try and protect her job. I would suggest that she remains nice to everybody, including the boss who doesn’t seem to like her. The reason for this hostility is probably that the “friend” has been backstabing.

    Hopefully, the boss will finally come to his/her senses and hire Newbie instead of that ungrateful, dangerous friend.

    Hopefully, the boss will finally realize which one of the two employees is the most valuable….

    By Jasmine on May 21, 2008

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