Bully at Work Moody Boss Karma Office Gossip No Picnic Back stabber Plug your Ears Moody Boss

Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman respond

cover of Survival of the SavvyRick 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.

Rick Brandon: Why Politics is Not a Dirty Word

Visit Rick Brandon’s site, Brandon Partners to see more of his videos and hear his advice on navigating organizational politics with integrity, influence, and impact for enhanced individual and enterprise success.

Office-Politics is all around us. Tell us about your problems

If office politics is causing you heartburn we want to hear from you. Submit your dilemma to ceo@officepolitics.com with Office-Politics in the subject line. We will keep your identity a secret. Please explain your problem succinctly. Between 100 – 400 words is ideal. Before submitting your letter please read the Terms of Submission here or below. OFFICE-POLITICS responds to your letters:

Marginalized like a fly on squat

I feel marginalized on a regular basis and no more entertaining or engaging than a fly on squat as far as the managers are concerned. How do I cope? Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “While it must be frustrating to continually hit a brick wall, if we assume that your observations are accurate, then the discounts appear less about your lacking power or being the victim of some agenda, and more about the organizational culture.”

Seven Ways to Boost Your Executive Stamina

“Executives need stamina to remain consistently focused on and energized about the task at hand. Getting too tired, busy or stressed also increases your chances of making career damaging mistakes. Here are seven ways to increase your executive stamina…” write Executive Stamina co-authors Marty Seldman, Ph.D. and Joshua Seldman.

Chomping at the bit to get “into the game”

Office politics is keeping an uncooperative employee in a position that I am much more willing and qualified to do. What should I do, if there is anything I can do? Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “It does seem unfair that superstar athletes get the playing time, the big contracts, the media attention, and the special perks at restaurants or shows; while the referees look the other way when they foul an opposing player, or the player is allowed to break rules, skirt practice requirements, or worse.”

I escaped but the snake is still loose

I inadvertently mentioned to a co-worker how this director used to treat me, and now she insists she must do something. My concern is around whether or not his behavior is criminal or if he is just ‘not a nice person’ to work with. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Well done to this point. You have handled an incredibly difficult situation in a mature, firm way and it seems to have been very effective. This does not mean that we would advise you to take it further.”

Could somebody be bad-mouthing me?

Is it possible that jealousy is responsible for my sudden isolation? Could somebody be bad-mouthing me? Do people really do these things? It seems hard for me to believe since I would never react like that to a situation like this. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Do people really do these things? Yes, everyday! Our short-term advice is to try to build a close relationship with someone; promise them confidentiality, and ask them to explain what is occurring…”

My boss told me not to share the information

I am concerned regarding the last project I was given by my boss in private. I was told not to share the information with anyone. The project is as unreasonable as it is untimely… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “It’s curious that you are being held to secrecy which raises concerns regarding whether your boss might have a hidden agenda or ulterior motive behind his project request…”

Part I: Law fellow excluded from inner circle

The Directors have a clique, that is quite close, and I am regularly excluded from this group. Last evening, for instance, I was excluded from a dinner party… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Sometimes the reasons some people make the inner circle and others not are rational, other times totally random. Naturally, you know the stereotypes about power hierarchies within academia and even more within the legal sector…”

Political and power stock has mysteriously tanked

It has recently been brought to my attention that I have a “reputation” and I am no longer in consideration for that top team because my “reputation proceeds me.” Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Your situation is not uncommon, where suddenly and mysteriously your political and power stock “tanks”. Our job is to help you figure out why it happened and what to do next.”

Six coworkers in clique all went to school together

I work with about 6 people who all had relationships before they got the jobs, they all went to college together and the manager seems to only hire his friends. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You sound like you are in one of those situations where the inner circle or core network of people have strong bonds. Your concerns about being treated fairly are genuine and as you’ve indicated very few people enjoy feeling like an outsider.”

Stressed by coworker’s personalities

My difficulty is that I am not the kind of woman who finds value in such rambling conversation and I abhor gossip. As I do not interact with them socially on the same level every day, I am criticized and they complain to our manager that I am “unapproachable”. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “We can see that this is a difficult decision because there are several things that you like about this job.”

Ex-team member has my boss in his pocket

I am very bad at ‘playing the game’. He has my boss in his pocket. She instant messages him behind my back to explain things to her because she doesn’t understand the work we do and she trusts his competence more than mine. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You seem to have analyzed the situation, the players and yourself very well. This has been a costly lesson in organizational politics so I hope that you can at least gather the learnings and apply them in your next job. The classic mistake you made was what we refer here to in “Survival of the Savvy” as “wounding the king”.

Next victim for sociopath boss and sidekick?

I work for a sociopath… He has one personal confidante for all company decisions… a young, inexperienced and an attractive women… It is believed they spend the time collaborating on how to terminate their next victim… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “But he is clearly also what we would call an Overly Political style, as he exhibits many of that posture’s traits: unethical, arrogant, corrupt, and power drunk— and also capable of being verbally articulate, charming, and expert at maneuvering and working the system to protect himself. Above all, never trust him or Mata Hari since the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. You WILL NOT CHANGE HIM.”

Stay Tuned: The Spider’s Revenge

My spider sense has been triggered… I have convinced myself that the line I was walking on has now become a thread; If this indeed is a take out play by executive management, then I need to survive regardless of who wins… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Well, just what kind of entertainment firm are you with, a production company for soap operas? It certainly sounds that way! Seriously, we’re not making light of your disturbing scenario, but welcome to the politics club.”

Part I: Demoted for criticizing my boss

Although I was a critic of his, I still performed my job with excellence and feel like he had no reason to demote me, save the fact that we don’t like each other. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Since you are very early in your career and we tend to look at things from a longer perspective, it is possible that this cadet has given you a tremendous gift, one that will repay you a hundred times what he has cost you.”

Where is the power seat in the office?

Without any significant reason the new manager proposes to the boss to change the sitting arrangement of a few other key managers. Is it a means to portray control? Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “In addition to coaching Executives on the right self-talk, preparation, executive vocabulary and how to respectfully interrupt to get their point across, we also advise them on where to sit. The best place to sit is…”

What tactics when I’m excluded from meetings?

When it comes time to make decisions on directions I suggest, I find out that the other three have held back office meetings and determined the outcome without including me. I’m told to partner with the other three but I end up being on the outside. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Are the three simply spending more time together due to prior friendships and therefore wind up “talking shop” that more innocently leaves you out, or does the mentor have a bit of an ulterior motive of wanting to see the people she mentors become more successful than others since it makes her look like she cultivates winners, or could there be more under-handed agendas at work in which they are purposely keeping you out of the loop to sabotage you? Why might this be?”

Stepped on by the Good Ole Boy’s and Hot Girl

The problem is the co-worker and new boss and staff are making life miserable for me. I am not part of the good old boys / “friends” club. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Unfortunately the early signs you are seeing are indicating a difficult scenario going forward. While not everyone who has power abuses it, the temptations are strong because short term the consequences seem minimal.”

Management drags feet to halt bullying

I went to my managers and complained. They agreed that they knew all about the problems and kiddingly said I had been warned… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Sometimes busy people or conflict averse systems want to “wish away” the problem. So if you don’t succeed, try, try again. Don’t drop the job request after not hearing back, and don’t just let the complaint against your “poisoning pal” whither away. Persistence is required… Sometimes fear of lawsuits is the only deterrent.”

Demoted supervisor wants my job!

From a trusted employee I have learned the demotion was done because the employee is uncomfortable with their current post and wishes to have mine in which she will be reinstated to the supervisor level. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You are definitely using several key principles of Organizational Savvy and we will try to add to your skill set to help you maintain your current position.”

Overly-Political coworker is making me look bad

Point is is that I think he is trying to make himself look better to the bosses, by making me look bad. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You surely are messing with what we label an Overly-Political person (OP) with all the traits of over-promoting, knowing where to be at the start of a project to take credit or blame others depending upon outcome, treating people only according to how much power they have such as J’s kissing up to your boss while dumping on worker bees, possessing questionable ethics and self-interest driven agendas, and being on a power/ego trip. The problem is that OP’s are very good at what they do, taking the admirable political astuteness we can all use and abusing it for wrong reasons.”

I’m shy… How can I be accepted at work?

I’m new in this HR firm – working as a front-desk officer – and I don’t know how to behave in order to be accepted, liked, respected and noticed. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “We put your goals under the three “ethical politics” skill sets of (1) Know the Corporate Buzz, (2) Essential Networking, and (3) Balanced Self-Promotion in order to gain influence, make an impact, and move ahead in your career and have job satisfaction.”

Owner trusts a bully to run company

The problem is that the Boss has hired someone to run the place that is moody, rude and arrogant… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “It’s amazing how many companies allow themselves to be trashed by unethical bullies. It can stem from various dynamics, and the appropriate steps (not panaceas) depend upon the diagnosis…”

Employee is planning to overthrow me!

He claims to his colleagues that he will be the manager soon. He knows all the top management… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “The agenda seems clear in that he hopes to succeed you. For him to be this brazen in his behavior it is obvious that he believes that he has more power than you because of his relationships with senior management. His actions indicate that he has no fear of you.”

Part I: My coworker ignores me and it is very cruel

The person beside me hates me for no known reason. She ignores me completely and it is very cruel. I say good morning and goodbye… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “What we don’t know is if this is a reaction to your personality and/or behavior or would she act this way towards anyone who came into the space. We always suggest that building a network is a very high priority and in your situation we think it is essential.”

Am I too nice? Staff are yelling at me!

All I want is respect from the staff members but b/c I never flexed any muscles in the past, they seem to think they can get away with murder. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Dr. Do-little — You unfortunately HAVE done “too little” to ethically enhance your power image, draw lines and boundaries or create a reputation deserving of respectful treatment.”

Surviving ‘wounding the king’ when the king is still around?

Is there a way to survive wounding the king when the king is still in the corporation? Can I somehow develop a relationship with him or work around him? Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “We hope you pat yourself on the back on how well you “get it”, understanding “wounding the king,” acknowledging that speaking truth to power can be done successfully or not, cultivating relationships with those in power in order to influence other stakeholders, discovering your corporate buzz and reinventing your image through targeted behavior changes, and taking what looks like a step backwards in order to take two forward.”

Wounding the king

We personally went and complained against the junior manager but nothing happened… I do not know how to survive in this company. This is my dream job and I simply love the work I do… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “We describe someone in your situation as having “wounded the king.” The old adage is “if you go after the king, kill him or don’t go after him.” If you wound the king he is alive and knows who did it. In the work place wounding the king means criticizing or threatening the exposure of someone who has more power than you and will use that power to punish or marginalize critics.”

Doing water ballet in the shark tank

I find my “non political, good work ethics-self” in the bad position of working with a woman who manages to do nothing, take credit for my successes and blames me for “our” mistakes. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “At least we know you are NOT living on that river called De-Nile, since the clues of an overly political superior are obvious: fixing blame, taking credit, sabotage through patronization. You sound clearly as less political, self-described as having high ethics and a non-political mentality. This is all fine as long as you are not going beyond being “less political” to become “under political” with a target on your back you are so naive or perceived as having a weak image, knowing no one in power, or doing water ballet in the shark tank.”

Toxic Boss’ warning signals ignored

The publisher Boss told “stories” about firing previous employees (which he seemed to take great pleasure in) and discussed race, religion, and sex regularly. He actually asked me what my religion was, which I found out was a regular occurrence there. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: ” The behavior you described we would label as “Toxic” and “Crazy Making.” What is the Learning Opportunity? We feel that you have a lot to extract about this because there were early signals… The publisher as you have described him demonstrates many of the classic traits of a sociopath. ”

As Leader, how do I handle jealous sniping?

I have two employees on the same level of the employee ladder… I see that they are very jealous of each other. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “While the old phrases, “comes with the territory,” “that’s the price of the dream,” don’t eliminate the problem, they provide helpful perspective so that you don’t become overly annoyed. Here are a few questions, tips and ideas to sift through as you decide which dynamics apply to your two children (oops, strike that… employees).”

My boss is a self-serving ego-nightmare

My once loved job is now hell. I have considered moving and have had a couple of interviews but feel resentful that I should have to move. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: ” You describe your boss as full of power-tripping, naked self-interest and ego gland hyperactivity, technically incompetent and unknowledgeable, interpersonally unskilled and rude, not a very nice person, a power tyrant and ego tripper, an overly political player who plays favorites and uses the new junior as a spy, and into a low-integrity good old boy network. But, Trapped, other than that, congrats on having such a great boss!”

My new subordinate wants my job!

Beginning on my first day (yes, my first day!) one of my new subordinates began a series of troubling comments and actions including… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “At least half of being savvy is being alert to signals and analyzing situations correctly. You have picked up the “tells” of a subordinate from day one. This person is demonstrating a variety of sabotage behaviors and is showing you that he is not afraid of you in any way. You are correct to take these actions very seriously and won’t be victim to “I didn’t see it coming”.”

Outrage at playing the game of office politics

HOW do I go back into an office environment and not be a victim of this game of ‘office politics’ again without being accused of not being friendly and personal with others? Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Even though some companies are less political than others, none have repealed the laws of human nature. Even in the Girl Scouts of America, we hear there are lots of politics, so in a family-owned business, you unfortunately would be unrealistic to NOT expect these classic dynamics of politics that you describe: favoritism, a boss “kissing up” to get in inner circle of the family literally, being a “yes-man.” If there are no politics, check the people’s pulse in your company since they are probably dead!”

Missing My Halo

I had the “halo effect” bestowed on me by my boss for the two years I have been in this job… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Your boss’ behavior is causing you embarrassment and may affect your ability to lead your direct reports. This makes it a serious issue and we are glad that you are beginning to formulate plans of action and are reaching out for help.”

Favorite has Boss in hip pocket. I am getting ulcers.

Before the arrival of this boss I loved my job and the company. Now I am getting ulcers… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Be very careful to be verbally disciplined, since that ulcer brewing means you’re swallowing a lot of anger that may be ready to be sparked at the wrong time in the wrong way.”

Office Favorite Makes Me Want To Abandon Ship

How do I handle an office favorite? We have one co-worker whom the bosses dote on and she can do no wrong… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Your bosses are demonstrating an unfortunate bias called the “halo effect.” The “halo effect” sounds like a positive thing but it has a negative effect on team members like yourself and eventually the bosses and even the recipient of favoritism…”

Part II: Why was I booted off customer training?

My Manager has taken the training of our customer service reps from my responsibility and given it to another person… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Sorry, Rick and Marty cannot answer your letter. This task has been assigned to someone else…”

When being nice is confused with “sucking up”

I was being sincere and thanking my Boss for seeing the good in people, and she wrote back to the office manager- “I just threw up in the trash can”… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “The area of positive feedback is a complex one. Many people assume that it is universally helpful to relationships and always well received. Your situation is one of many examples that show this is not the case…”

How do you get rid of bad managers?

Why don’t people go to the human resource office and complain? Because they are afraid of retribution… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Wow, if colleges are where you are supposed to learn, it’s sad to hear what you are learning, particularly about politics… You are at least surviving whereas many are axed, say the wrong thing to the wrong person when speaking truth to power… ”

Dealing with a Queen Bee and a chameleon

Can you give me advice on how to deal with this type of co-worker, who is very good at changing her colors to match someone else’s for the sake of making her look sincere to the person? Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You are dealing with one of the hardest challenges in business, how do you deal day to day with someone you don’t trust. ”

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

I was the best thing since sliced bread. Pay raises, compliments, and promotion… Now the new guy took over and I am out of favor. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “It is possible to turn things around in your current situation but it will require hard work and patience on your part. You know you are the same person and just as valuable as ever but the perception of you has changed.”

Age-related disabilities bring out the bullies

My problem is the hostile attitude that other employees have developed toward John and they use his lower productivity to justify why they shouldn’t work hard or be responsible for high levels of quality… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “As with all vicious cycles it is important to deal with it as soon as possible because it will get worse. We suggest talking with John first. …”

I am in HR but the irony is, I am bad at dealing with people…

I cannot work if staff does not talk to me anymore… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Thanks for reaching out, since on the ladder of learning, being aware of deficits is the first step to improvement and you sound humble enough to see your areas for improvement…”

Apparently I am the most ‘hated’ person in my office…

I have just recently learned that I am the most ‘hated’ person in my office and I do not know what to do… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Although, we realize that you, too, may feel you’re in an absence of reliable information, we must wonder how you know that you are the most hated person?”

Itching to tell off a toxic, back-stabbing co-worker

To many it would feel so very good to tell off a toxic, back-stabbing co-worker. Chew them a new one. Bring them to tears. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “From the standpoint of career management it is not a case of pros and cons. It is mostly a bunch of cons. If this co-worker is so political, he or she very well may have ingratiated his or herself with someone in power.”

Backstabbed by my best buddy

My co-worker, pretending to be my best buddy was back stabbing me and saying subtle negative things about me behind my back to sway my old manager and now my new manager to distrust me. Whatever he did worked. The whole team is against me. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Keep your head on straight since no matter how this turns out, if you handle your reputation well and cover your tracks, you will land on your feet.”

Coworkers ask: What do you do all day?

Recently, I have been receiving an unusual amount of back handed comments regarding me just “walking around all day doing nothing.” Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “We’d like to suggest that you implement two major Organizational Savvy “ethical politics” skill sets…”

Coworker’s DUI arrest and messy affair

After my coworkers second DUI arrest, he allowed his drinking to effect work to the point that we almost lost 2 licenses to operate programs. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “This situation is not pretty and we can see certain scenarios where it gets very ugly. Any number of people could expose the ongoing behavior… ”

More office politics now than 20 yrs ago?

Some of these difficult situations are causing people to backstab & manipulate other people in order to get good jobs & promotions! Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Your hunch about the work shortage as a contributing factor to increased politics these days is certainly a piece of the puzzle, since scarcity and job instability can create conditions of pressure, fear and greed, which are all factors that can compel people to act more rashly, selfishly, and sometimes unethically. ”

The Office Princess

Is there anything I can do to put an “office princess” in her place without hurting my reputation? Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You can see from our salutation that we agree with your description of your “princess” colleague as being fairly immature, and we applaud your positioning the heart of the issue as wanting to approach and handle the situation without damaging your own reputation…”

Training the Office Pet

Both my boss and the pet are always covering up for themselves… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “This writer ’s letter illustrates the type of negative impact a leader has when choosing favorites, “pets”, or as we label it, bestows the “halo effect.””

Power struggle with coworker

I work with a woman who is threatened by me, therefore, she regularly tries to take over some of my responsibilities to make herself look good. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Overly political people put their self-interest over the organization’s interests, do what they can get away with, and often rely on using power vs. competence to maintain their careers…”

My personality seems to sabotage every job

I’ve read reams of books on anger management, team building, etc. but I can’t seem to get out of this rut… I need to learn how to be savvy. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “We agree that you need to be more savvy, especially when you indicate that “my personality seems to sabotage my career in every job.””

Corporate Misfit ready to be a cashier

I really need some words of encouragement as I am about to give up and find a nice cashiering job… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Well, your sign-up name of “misfit” could explain much of your problem, since you do seem to repeatedly cultivate situations of “miss fit”… ”

The “tenured” support group has made my life and work hell…

I have tried nice. I have tried conflict resolution. And complaining to superiors. None of which worked. I even plain out asked these women if I offended them unknowingly, and that I apologize. They said nothing… Do you have any seminars on New York city office politics for people coming from other parts of the world or US? Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You are not alone and not an isolated victim, so you needn’t take their treatment personally… ”

Torment caused by on-going affair with a clerk…

The owner of this third facility has a long-term, on-going affair with a member of the production staff… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Was the affair going on before you formed the partnership and/or did you know it was occurring? If so, you don’t have as strong leverage… ”

Ex-boss & colleagues view me as a traitor…

A coworker and friend has told me that the boss and she will be starting a competing company. I feel I need to tell my new boss… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “We hope that a second “aha” piece of insight might be the realization that whichever side of this ethical dilemma you land need not make you a bad person, unethical, nor a “traitor.”…”

I am bored, overqualified, underpaid…

I have quietly said to one or two people that I am bored, overqualified, underpaid, and that the management has no idea of what it is doing… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “In an office setting it is hard to see how these comments help you and it is very easy to see how they could hurt you. High risk/no reward is a poor investment strategy or career strategy…”

The 60-year old refuses to train interns…

A 60-year old near retirement lady is playing games and is refusing to train new interns with various excuses. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You actually sound somewhat politically savvy in assessing the situation from the clues you’re outlining but we believe we might be able to help by helping you add up the clues to determine their potential meaning, provide perspective (and therefore, hopefully, some consolation), and point you in a few directions for next steps…”

The supervisor does not treat everybody equally…

I feel the supervisor does not treat everybody equally, different treatments for different employees. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You may actually be learning some things that, over a career, may be more important than designer skills. You are learning first hand about power, perception, politics and some basics of organizational and human behavior. Ultimately this will make you more savvy about people but this is a frustrating way to learn…”

Entry-level office aide is poisoning our office

This entry-level office aide has decided that she knows all about academia and academicians and has told junior personnel that the faculty (us) are stupid and slow (our PhDs in science/math are no match for her BA in home interiors). Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “The behavior you are describing even exhibited by one person, unchecked can and often does create a vicious cycle on teams…”

Should I warn the Newbie about my manipulative, backbiting co-worker?

My colleague already is starting to butter up the newbie. Should I just keep my mouth shut and my head down, or should I tell the newbie to watch out when there’s a private moment? Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “We admire your good-hearted, caring nature, since it sounds like you have the new hire’s interests at heart as well as the organization’s since no one benefits when a new employee’s early honeymoon goes sour and winds up in “buyer’s remorse.” ”

Don’t want to be friendly at work…

I would rather be spending time with people I respect than with people who roll their eyes when I am talking and who stab me in the back every chance they get! Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Your letter did NOT have us rolling our eyes, but your letter is filled with mixed messages that compel us to wonder if you are more of the problem than you are comfortable admitting to yourself? ”

Dribbling my future away in the NBA

I am a college graduate that’s currently working in the NBA Mailroom… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Answering your question is the straight forward part of our reply: don’t quit, but definitely search out your other options in the marketplace.”

Chief of staff passed over for a promotion

I was recently passed over on a promotion opportunity to replace my boss who is nearing retirement… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You see, as you sadly discovered, many good, competent, ethical, company loyal, dedicated, technically brilliant and productive people MAY end up suffering being passed over or worse…”

Is the spotlight fueling jealousy towards me?

For the whole year the owner loved everything about me… Boy was I in the spotlight. Now, there are certain people who despise me and start rumors and they are really hitting home. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: ” It is very possible that the heightened visibility and recognition you have received this year has made you something of a target. When you add the incentive of hurting your reputation and driving you from the company to feelings of envy, people unfortunately behave in the way you are describing… ”

Lone female working with cowboys

I am female and work primarily with guys that, while highly educated, come across with somewhat of a cowboy attitude. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Dear Annie Oakley… We address you as that, so that you can remember that plenty of females learned to fit in with cowboys… ”

Not fitting in

I have recently moved from New York City to San Diego to start work at a new job. At my new office I don’t feel like I fit in. Everyone is quiet. No one expresses themselves. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “If you had made the choice to start a new job in Mexico City, Moscow or Rio you probably would have prepared yourself for working in a new culture. You might have been on the lookout for cultural differences, asked people beforehand about the culture and accepted that you would have to work to fit in…”

Is the deck stacked against me?

I have strived harder to make them notice me but for some reasons my rival and my boss’ bonding is unbreakable/unbeatable. In addition, I don’t seem to get projects where I could “shine”. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Your efforts to garner positive attention are what we would recommend but the deck seems stacked against you. The other data point that you mentioned that concerns us is how the company responds to people who push back and challenge. So we agree, as described, this is far from an ideal environment. Does that mean you should leave?…”

Paycheck envy in new job

I have been told I will be earning more than one of my contemporaries who has worked there for over two and a half years. They also know this and they are not happy about it… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Our first caution is to be sure that you are not “catastrophizing” and “awfulizing” the future when many in your shoes would be celebrating their being recognized and rewarded…”

Troubled soul in a toxic workplace

My last job was with a company with 2,700 people there, this is a 30 person company but i am amazed with the insecurity and amount of loose talk that goes on around here… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You are describing an office environment that is dysfunctional, and potentially toxic…”

Office politics going on between the CEO and CFO

I have been noticing some office politics going on between the CEO and CFO of the organization I work for… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “If you were not in Human Resources, we might be tempted to caution you about getting in the middle or even being overly concerned about mediating this battle of titans, since it’s often the “facilitator” who winds up the heavy since both power holders may end up resenting you for not choosing their side…”

New Boys Socialize With Old Boy

My concern is a very strong, mostly new boys (30/40ish) network who socialize together, ally together in the office, and direct connect to the top through an old boy who has the confidence of the director… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Please be extremely careful. Instead of losing sleep over your management challenges what could keep you up at night is the threat to your job..”

Neophyte Auditor Learns A Lesson

I am getting fairly distressed here. I am at the start of my career in accounting, and I am facing quite a tough situation… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “I’ve done a great job and achieved terrific results, while pouring hours of overtime in continually. My results will speak for themselves.” No. Not enough. We must practice the political and organizational savvy strategy we call Balanced Self-Promotion…”

Does Higher Title Trump Advanced Degree?

I had to decide whether to listen to my department manager or the president of the company (who put me in the position). It does not seem like it is clear cut that I should listen to the person who holds the more advanced title… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “The situation you are in is difficult but not unusual. We ourselves have been caught in the middle of these differences and we have coached dozens of people facing this challenge.”

Nurse In Need Of First Aid

Professional counsellors recommend I ignore these people as they are only ankle-biters and are insecure in themselves. The problem is that they are drawing others into the posse as well… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “It’s clear the “Nurse” is in need of first aid! Firstly emotional first aid…

Thrown Out Like A Thief

They publicly fired me for unethical conduct that I did not do… I am still intensely bothered that people I devoted my time to, and trusted, threw me out as a thief, how could they know me so little? Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “It sounds like the bruise that hurts most is this slur on your character. So remind yourself of all you do that is ethical and find ways to “fill your bucket” to repair your self-esteem that has suffered a blow”

Not Playing the Game

I have been recently advised by my manager that the problem with me is that I don’t ‘play the game’… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “There are so many things you mention that are unprofessional. Although they seem to be “getting away” with their management practices, there are definite short term consequences and of course they are vulnerable to legal complaints.”

Don’t Say A Word To Anyone!

I am concerned regarding the last project I was given by my boss in private. I was told not to share the information with anyone… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “It’s curious that you are being held to secrecy which raises concerns regarding whether your boss might have a hidden agenda or ulterior motive behind his project request.”

I’d Make A Better Manager

This man is educated, has every insurance designation imaginable, yet has NO idea how to treat people… I may not be as book smart as this man, but would make a far better manager. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “In terms of how you handled this situation we give you high marks… Two concerns emerge from your letter. One, you are still upset and your self-talk about the manager is quite negative. ”

Dreading The Cubicle World

Little did I realize that losing the title of Manager meant losing my office too! I don’t want to return to the cubicle world… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Ouch! We do feel your disappointment and chagrin, which might be a tough pill to swallow. It sounds like you unfortunately did not ask enough questions about the new position’s perks, benefits, and disadvantages…”

Merger Missteps

People moan about the merger and are negative while I believe we have a huge opportunity for growth and improvement… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Any time a merger or acquisition occurs, it is a fertile time for new unwritten rules in the company, new power holders (both formal through title and informally through influencers with their agendas).”

What An Egomaniac Needs To Learn

This man ‘x’ is a little ego-centric male chauvinist, and always tries to tell me that he knows everything about the technology behind the project… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Attitude in office politics is half the battle. So consciously alter your internal dialogue from ‘how dare him,’ ‘it’s unfair,’ and whatever else revs you up to ‘where is it written that life is supposed to be fair?’…’he has an ego and it’s his problem that I don’t have to take so personally’…’I am more savvy than he is so I can deal with this.”

Glass Ceiling

I’ve been told (even though I have a graduate level education) that my educational field is not what they desire to fill the position… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “You have some important career decisions to make given the news you’ve received that your educational discipline area forms a glass ceiling…”

Make Lemonade From Lemons

My co-worker, pretending to be my best buddy was back stabbing me… Whatever he did worked. The whole team is against me. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: You might be able to salvage the current situation, but if NOT, you’ve invested a year and will leave wiser for the experience. Now how MIGHT you make lemonade out of these lemons you’re munching on currently?

Third Wheel In An Office Romance

Two members seem to be having a “romantic” relationship. They spend time all day together working on the same work issues… Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “What’s really eating at you? Well, whether or not they are experiencing certain “perks” with each other isn’t an issue you need to invest time, energy, aggravation, or risking of your own reputation, is it? What is?”

The Complaint Window Is Closed

They are reluctant to ‘make waves’ with this person… fearing they will sound like whiners who cannot take care of their own office difficulties... Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “Your instincts are ones to be trusted since your dilemma involves two co-workers who are not taking responsibility for cleaning up their own rooms! This is less an office politics issue and more one of basic communication skills of constructive confrontation, assertiveness, and accountability…”

I really do not want to have to leave the company over this high school $!#!… Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman respond

I would like to believe that I am being discriminated against when they so obviously show favoritism towards workers from their own country… Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman respond

Is there a way to survive ‘wounding the king’ when the king is still in the corporation? Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman respond

When does office politics turn into illegal behavior? She put a rear view mirror on her PC monitor and angled it toward me to watch every move I made… Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman respond

Everyone avoids meeting with me, including my manager, my coworkers… Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman respond

Now I realize that the Director’s wife will be getting the larger office with the executive furniture… Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman respond

Manager and Supervisor are sabotaging psychopaths

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. Co-authors Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. respond: “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…”

Is a ‘Jerry Maguire’ move acceptable? Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman respond

I challenged the leader that the work load was too much. So the leader went to our manager and accused me of not being a team worker… Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman respond

My Boss says: You have done nothing. You are inefficient. You are unproductive. You do not have any initiative… Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman respond

A new secretary has been causing havoc on our floor. She claims she is being harassed by my secretary, who has to sit right next to her… Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman respond


About Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D.

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.

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