Franke James responds…
Franke is an author, artist and speaker on social change and the environment. You can follow her on Twitter @officepolitics. Franke brings 20 years of real-world business experience to her role as an adviser on OfficePolitics.com. As Co-founder of The James Gang, Franke has worked on creative projects with small and large organizations including the Ontario Government, Upper Canada College, Roots Canada, Monster Canada, Stella Artois, Umbra, Manufacturers Life Insurance, and others.
Since 2002, Franke has been quoted and featured in print, radio and TV on the topic of office-politics by the New York Times, Chatelaine Magazine, Inc. Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Job Postings Magazine, CBC Radio, CTV News and other media. In 2009, Franke spoke and moderated a panel, Office Politics: Navigating the Political Landscape, at the WICT Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. In addition to answering letters sent into the site, Franke has collaborated with best-selling authors on replies, for example: Dan Heath, Robert Sutton, Dan Pink, Amy Sutherland.
Franke James is also the author of the illustrated environmental book, Bothered By My Green Conscience published in April, 2009. It won the Green Book Festival Award for Graphic Novels in May 2010. Franke has a new book coming out in October 2012: Frying the Planet: the art of what one person can do combines her passions for the environment, art and politics.
FRANKE IN THE NEWS:
Party etiquette: The work-life BBQ balance
Globe and Mail, Wency Leung, June 22, 2010
Franke James was interviewed by The Globe and Mail about hosting a summer barbecue party.
Excerpt: “Over the years, Franke James, Toronto author of Dear Office-Politics, has received a number of letters from individuals seeking her advice on how to deal with this dilemma. In some cases, Ms. James says, the hesitation comes from the invitees. For instance, one advice-seeker wrote about being reluctant to attend a luncheon for the entire department, hosted at the residence of an openly hostile co-worker.
“I’ve tried to be professional and at least greet her in the morning and she will not respond with even a ‘good morning,’ ” the letter read. “I don’t feel comfortable going to her home.”
However, skipping the party also meant snubbing the host and potentially further damaging relations at work, Ms. James explains, noting, in the end, she advised the writer to simply go with his gut. While hosts often fret about creating their guest lists, the paradox is that those they invite might not actually want to go, she says.
“They probably don’t really want to even have to spend the time, you know, getting dressed up, going to the person’s house, bringing a bottle of wine. They don’t want to come,” she says.
“But on the other hand, they don’t want to be excluded, and so their feelings are hurt. It’s human nature, right?”
The truth hurts. Tell me more
Globe and Mail, Zosia Bielski, April 23, 2010
Franke James was interviewed for this Globe and Mail article on GetUnvarnished.com, a site where users can get the “inside scoop” on their business partners and employers can read up on potential hires. All comments are anonymous. Franke commented:
Excerpt: “But critics such as Franke James, founder and editor of OfficePolitics.com, believes the sites “open the door to cyber bullying.”
“This is like a twisted version of the 360 reviews which HR and corporations have been using for decades. It could easily result in character assassination. The Internet is rocket fuel for bad word of mouth,” said Ms. James, who is also the author of Dear Office-Politics: The Game Everyone Plays.
Calling Unvarnished a Yelp.com “for people, not products or services,” she also wonders about the ramifications for libel lawsuits.”
Pulling a Conan: Do you really want to bite the hand that dumps you?
Excerpt: It’s every employee’s dream, but (unfortunately) career experts say “pulling a Conan” is a bad idea, even when you know you’re headed out the door. Venting frustrations at work, or playing out elaborate revenge scenarios, can only hurt your career – unless you happen to be a multimillionaire who makes his living by mocking others.
“The business world is a very small place, and word travels fast,” says Franke James, editor and founder of the advice website www.OfficePolitics.com.
A few years ago her site received a letter from a man who had been passed over for promotion.
“My solution to the problem is to find a new job and once I have accepted the new position, I plan to order in pizza for the entire office (it’s a small company) and while everybody is eating I plan to stand up and tell the boss to take his job and shove it up his ass. Doing so in a calm cool voice and then simply walking out of the room and out to my car. Do you have a better solution?” the man asked.
The answer was a resounding yes. “The people who are your co-workers and even your bosses will move in to other companies in the future,” Ms. James cautions. “That can give you inroads and connections that you can’t even imagine.”
See more interviews and articles by Franke below.
Three Advisers give their best advice to “In Some Hot Water”
Sometimes we get a letter that poses such a universal dilemma that it’s worth exploring in more depth, and from multiple angles. This letter is a case in point. Gossip is a problem that plagues workplaces everywhere. Here are three responses to the same letter from three Office-Politics Advisers: Author and award-winning journalist, Rona Maynard; Author and Founder, Skill Source, Jennifer Miller; and Office-Politics.com Founder and Author, Franke James.
Read Franke James’ reply: Your last line “How should I play this?” is where I’m going to start.
10 tips to help you grow (& get credit for) your next brainchild Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game writes: “Imagine what your office would be like if everyone walked around with big signs saying, “Don’t steal my idea!” It would be laughable, pathetic — and of course it wouldn’t work… Companies would grind to a halt if no one was willing to share their thoughts. So what can we do to create an environment where people will see that sharing their ideas is actually their greatest source of power?”
One woman… apparently thinks it is her job to run the office completely and seems annoyed whenever I’m involved…. My husband told her in a joint meeting that she was the office manager (my title) without speaking with me about it…. This gets complicated because our husbands are best friends. Although a friend, she is even a closer friend to my husband. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “To me, the central issue in your letter is power and fairness. You have power as one of the owners of the company, but the employee (let’s call her Hilary) has power too. Before we talk about the power Hilary wields, I’m curious whether you have established an equal partnership with your husband.”
I used to be highly respected for my knowledge and ability to problem-solve & craft policy & procedure to guide our work processes… Now I am being shuffled off to a position doing quality control audits of lower-classed workers – because I “know everything”. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “So how can you make those fours years worthwhile and actually pave the way to a great post-retirement career? To do that, I think you need to shift your attitude.”
My boss is taking the choice office at the far end of the new office space and if I move to stay close to him, I will have to give up the corner office and move into a smaller space. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Power in a corporation is not from material trappings or the title on your desk. It comes from being trusted and wielding influence — whose ear do you have? Can you speak directly to the top decision-maker, or is everything you say filtered through levels of management?”
In meetings, my coworker, humiliates me in front of everyone, she says demeaning comments to my face. She has sabotaged me with other teachers… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “I bet by the time you finished writing that letter you knew what you had to do. But just in case you have any doubts let me tell you the message I’m getting loud and clear. Your coworker (let’s call her Teri) is a bully. You’re a smart lady and you’ve faced some very tough situations — and not wallowed in self-pity. So don’t do it now.”
One of my new contacts originally approached me looking for a “nanny” but once we got to talking further, we realized that this new contact of mine had a full-time professional job opening… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Think of the nanny position as starting you on the first rung of a ladder. You are going to climb higher and get more experience on that ladder. That’s good if you are interested in childhood education…”
“Would you — or your kids — rather work at a ‘McJob’ or a ‘Green Collar’ job? Let’s hope we can convince lots of young people that green collar jobs offer far brighter opportunities than any McJob, because the world needs a lot of cleaning up (even without further disasters like the oil spills in San Francisco Bay and the Black Sea in 2007).” writes Franke James, Editor and Founder, OfficePolitics.com.
Wouldn’t it be great if the more you gave, the more you got back in return? If that were true, imagine how it would transform your workplace, your career, and even your family life. All of a sudden there’d be an upsurge in people wanting to give, give, give, instead of always taking (from you)! I decided to put it to a test. I would observe people I come in contact with to see if I could spot any true Go-Givers…. writes Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game.
Have you ever wondered what type of coaching advice senior executives receive that enable them to keep going at full speed?
How do CEO’s balance maximum effort at work with demands in their personal life? Franke James, Editor & Founder of Office-Politics interviews co-author of EXECUTIVE STAMINA, Marty Seldman, and discovers some of the coaching tools he uses with his clients …
Franke James, Editor of OfficePolitics.com interviews best-selling author Dan Pink about his new book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The last career guide you’ll ever need.
Diana, the unlikely career advisor starring in The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, teamed up with OP Editor, Franke James, to answer the letter.
My sister ‘Katty’ got the job. Fast forward, Katty works here and has been making my work life miserable ever since. She constantly says inappropriate things in the office… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Clearly your problem is not just office politics, it’s family politics too. Unfortunately, family politics can be even worse because it can last a lifetime. You can’t ‘fire’ a family member… Let’s look at your options. You’ve said you’re prepared to lay down an ultimatum to HR. Either Katty leaves the company or you do. It sounds logical and decisive but is it smart politically?”
I was advised I shouldn’t be telling anyone about being considered for the shift supervisor’s job because the reaction was that other employees had asked, “Is someone going to be fired?” Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “What is your fortune in the fast food industry? I think you’ve analyzed your coworkers and your situation very well but I’ll add in my perspective, too. Your letter raises interesting questions about management opportunities for mature workers and also the perils of revealing your desired career path to coworkers.”
Almost overnight, there seems to be little or no drive to move forward on a number of key initiatives she started. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “What a timely dilemma! Innovation versus so-called ‘Job security’. However since you’re stuck in the middle of it, you may not feel quite as enthusiastic.”
Eight months ago my Manager said she would reassess my salary in six months time (said it was even written into her calendar). Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Tongue-in-cheek news alert: “Bosses are human. And they are not perfect”. Remembering that basic truth, let’s see how we can find the right moment to encourage your Boss to think about you and your needs.”
I have been having difficulty with a fellow administrator coming in behind me and directing employees as he sees fit, contradicting the tasks that I have already assigned. The problem is he is my husband… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game collaborates on the reply with Amy Sutherland, the author of “What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers.”
I am a fresh, new female lawyer working under another female lawyer (a Partner in the firm). She gives me the most pathetic of jobs like ‘translating a one-line letter’, proof-reading letters and labeling files… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “At first glance your Senior Boss’ actions do seem perplexing and confusing. From your perspective you are left wondering why she chose you, only to assign you menial tasks.”
I have worn jeans and a blouse with heels everyday to work. Up until today. Management now has a problem with this. I am very upset… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds, “As you’ve explained it, it doesn’t sound fair to be singled out about your choice of clothing. Unfortunately management holds the power in this situation. Are you being picked on unfairly by management? Quite possibly, but they’ve found a weak spot that will be difficult to argue against.”
I can hardly go into work every day… The resentment is affecting my health… The new team lead is more like a dictator than a leader. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “My observation of your workplace is that the political climate has changed dramatically. You already knew this, but perhaps coming from an objective source, the confirmation may help you to decide what is the right thing to do.”
She is making negative comments at the bargaining table (about customers, management, co-workers, etc) and constantly bringing up “the way things were” 20+ years ago! Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “The negotiation strategy you’re playing right now, whether you like it or not is Good guy/Bad guy. Your overly emotional coworker (we’ll call her Courtney) is the ‘bad guy’. She represents the hard-to-control, hard-to-negotiate faction of unionized workers.”
Over the past 6 months or so, I noticed that two of my colleagues were collaborating on projects between themselves and not including me as they should. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Essentially your question boils down to: How do you gain acceptance in a new workplace? Your dilemma reminds me of not being invited to a party — and how hurtful that can be.”
To be honest, I would rather spend time with my own friends than with these people (!), but worry that there are professional costs to being disliked and outside of this loop. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “You raise a very interesting dilemma and one that perplexes many. Why are you being excluded from the Director’s dinner party? It doesn’t sound fair does it? Let me float a theory…”
The HR person finally ‘fessed up. The person who was handling my application quit and the job wasn’t transitioned properly. They had essentially ‘lost’ my resume. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Your resume did get through to HR but then somehow went astray. Life isn’t fair. How could you have predicted that the HR person would be let go? You couldn’t have. But a ‘belt and suspenders’ attitude might have protected you.”
Now it is time for top management to honor their commitment to fund more positions within my division (and a raise for me), they are balking and actually doing the opposite, saying that “margins and growth aren’t everything, maintaining our old company culture is more important” Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “I think the bigger lifetime career decision revolves around corporate culture. What type of organization are you going to thrive in? Your new company appears to have given you some independence, but is essentially hierarchal. Your entrepreneurial mindset is at odds with the other divisions.”
I blind-cc-ed the email to my boss, because I wanted him to see the level of PR his secretary has – and he’s in charge of PR and communications! Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Now you have some PR and rebranding work to do for yourself… Your letter describes a minor spat, but it could easily turn into a major power struggle if you don’t take immediate action.”
I know that you have to play the game sometimes but some of us are just not very good at it. I’m one of those quiet, reserved, stay at my desk, get my job done types. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “You are very comfortable being an under political player. But keeping your head down doesn’t mean that you’re safe, or protected. It just means you won’t see it coming when you get whacked on the head!”
Nice Perfume, must you bathe in it? That is what I want to say to her but I won’t…It’s the type of thing you can even taste it on your tongue a little. You can tell when she has been in the copy/work room because of the scent lingering. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “I’ve had firsthand experience with a perfume-bather so I know how touchy this issue is. We had an employee who also ‘bathed’ in it. Every pore oozed fragrance. It was so repulsive I gagged….”
I was just terminated from my job because of the so called ‘reorganization’. However, I knew the real reason was that I complained about the unfair, bad and abusive behavior of my supervisor… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “I would be extremely cautious about signing — it sounds suspicious. However, at Office-Politics.com we can’t offer legal advice… But, I can offer you these ten non-legal suggestions which may be helpful…”
I am grossly underpaid… But I stay with my employer because I am getting some valuable leadership/management experience for my resume. For 50% more money, though, I am willing to give that experience up! Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “A job is so much more than the money. This new opportunity may be better for you — but if so, it likely won’t be because of the pay. The money will mean nothing if you’re unhappy or stressed (read some of the letters on this site). Before you jump to the new job…”
Not knowing the political game, when a fellow “equivalent” co-worker asked me how much my salary was (after telling me his salary as well), I hesitated and told him. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Recognize that you fell into a trap which was set by your ‘more political’ and unethical coworker (we’ll call him Mike). He disclosed his salary, knowing that by doing so you would feel obligated to reveal yours. You took the bait and got caught.”
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. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “It probably felt great to share your caustic opinion of him with your buddies, but did it achieve anything? It only alerted him to your dislike of him. In effect you ‘Wounded the King’, but you didn’t kill him.”
When the raffle was held, with much fanfare, the winner turned out to be the Chief Operating Officer, who made her delight perfectly clear, much to the dismay and shock of everyone else in the room. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Perception is reality. Whether or not the Chief Operating Officer actually rigged the raffle to ensure her win, she is certainly gambling with her reputation. No wonder her behavior has left a bad-taste in yours and other employee’s mouths.”
The American Management Association asked Franke James, Office-Politics Editor and Inventor of the Office-Politics Game, for her opinion on “How to send a Subtle Message to your Boss?” Franke examines an imaginative range of subtle tactics, ruses and ploys and comes to a surprising conclusion. Read the article and then take our Office-Politics Poll featured in the article sidebar.
I have been literally chased around the conference room table by the head boss of the bank… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “I’m going to attempt to help you by prompting your thinking — using the type of self-diagnostic techniques that emergency health manuals offer for First Aid…”
One member of this clique in particular has a past history of behind-the-scenes sniping and negativity, and I’ve met with her previously to discuss this with what I thought were positive outcomes. So it’s very difficult to address as a manager… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Behind the scenes sniping can drain energy from the best initiatives – how can the team be moving forward if one-half of it is pulling in the other direction? It’s a tug-of-war which can destabilize your authority and best efforts as a manager. So you are wise to be looking for ways to get this negativity under control. The good news is: There are many creative tools to help you fight this… I am going to recommend three different tools. You can have some fun with them, and they will help you to bring these naysayers and snipers into line.”
Not having enough rank to protect me, I’m the target of both direct attacks and backstabbing. From rumors, to sneers, to blatant sarcasm, to the managers turning their departments against me, it’s making my life very difficult. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “You’ve painted quite a picture of intrigue, division, deceit and backstabbing. Let’s try to step back and strategize an action plan… You are a Pawn. Being a pawn may not sound like a good thing, but it can help you to understand your place in the battle.”
I need to recover from a disastrous office party where I got too drunk. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Yeow!! You really got yourself into a mess. So how do you mop it up? First, an apology to the VP is in order. You should also…”
I am an attorney — specifically, a prosecutor. My problem is that there is a dominant clique in my workplace, and I have been regularly excluded (implicitly and expressly) from social events. I feel as though I’m in high school again, and my co-workers have formed an exclusionary clique comprised of only the “cool” kids. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “I’m going to approach this from a different angle. The history of hurts and slights that you’ve disclosed is important, but it’s old news. From the sounds of it you’re a super bright guy. You can’t waste time nursing old wounds or wallowing in self-pity. I want to devise a way for you to turn this around and start attracting people to you.”
I have quite the dilemma, though most people think it would be a dream. My old-supervisor answers to me now. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Nice to see that the ‘good guy’ got promoted. But as you point out in your letter, it does pose some complications. To help answer your letter I’ve pulled in Robert Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule.”
My boss said that he felt that I was taking advantage of the situation and him. I didn’t quite know what to say… How could he possibly think this of me? Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “It sounds to me like you’re doing the best you can!…Through no fault of your own, and despite your best efforts, you have become a liability for the company. We cannot rely on employers to ‘do the right thing’ in times of adversity like this. You need the protection of the law…”
I am to work on the business plan my former company had mocked me for, which now they see as important… My stomach simply churns… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Your response to this new opportunity is that it is a bitter pill to swallow. You’d rather have been hired at this new company with a blank slate, a fresh start. But the reality is that the prime asset you have is business intelligence from your previous employer…”
Recently, a co-worker had an inappropriate item from her bachelorette party in the office, and was passing it around, teasing about it… I shot a picture on my digital cam. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Yikes! That’s quite a mess you got yourself into, with a nifty little camera and a tech savvy co-worker ‘webmaster’. The thing that really upped the ante was publishing it on the web!? The National Enquirer wasn’t buying I guess…”
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… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “The ‘ignoring’ tactic that your coworker is using is indeed cruel. However once you understand it as a ‘tactic’ you will be much better armed to defend yourself. The funny thing is that ‘ignoring’ is a classic technique advised by Family psychologists to ‘handle’ unruly offspring who are prone to outbursts.”
I am afraid we are going to lose our funding because of a few bad apples. The board of directors are not monitoring the situation even though it has been brought to their attention. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “It’s clear from reading the daily newspaper, that seemingly small abuses, such as you are describing, can blow up and cause major embarrassment (and loss of funding).”
My supervisor often yells at employees, belittles them, talks down to us and is very rude…. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “When I was fresh out of college, I was hired by a wealthy, society lady… On my first day, I observed that she yelled at everyone around her. Except me. All the employees cowered in fear of her. I took one look around, and figured that I was in the honeymoon phase…”
The director deserves an academy award for her manipulative tactics. She will never admit to making a mistake and she makes it her job to see that everyone takes responsibility for the problems that she and her staff create… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “The way I see it, you have five options ranging from documenting to ridiculing to quitting to going into therapy…”
A few weeks ago I totally snapped and sent a letter to the board of directors outlining my concerns about the quality of decision making from our CEO; backed up with examples… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “By writing to the Board of Directors you have inadvertently stepped into the role of whistleblower. It’s quite a fascinating chain of events that you’ve unleashed. Let’s step back and recognize the hot potato you’ve handed them.”
The Managing broker, who is also the Office Manager of the firm we are affiliated with, is hogging all the listings. Recently he has picked a favorite agent to be his partner. Is this ethical? Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “To answer your question I turned to an experienced and down-to-earth real estate agent who has been in business for many years.”
In our office protocol it is established that the “soups” or supervisors are the go between for us and the techs. However, I get emails from the techs… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Although you have written for help in dealing with intrusive ‘soups’ and communication, your letter actually raises a ‘red flag’ that indicates your success may be in jeopardy.”
My question is, how do I sit back and ignore the office manager who is always chit chatting with a couple of the ladies in the office. They go out to lunch all of the time, taking an hour or longer… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “That little voice inside you that says, “None of us should be taking these long lunches.” is exactly the voice that you should be listening to, not those chatty ladies that are currently getting under your skin. It will take you far in your career… ”
I have attention deficit disorder (ADD) and it interferes with my ability to quickly assess situations and change gears… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds, “Let’s rephrase your statement: ‘I get stuck on what I anticipated as reality rather than regrouping and dealing with the reality at hand.’ to put it in a more positive light, ‘I have the ability to focus very intently on solving problems, but when something or someone interferes, it throws my concentration off and I get upset.”
This woman stumps me because I feel like I’m back in junior high school again and the popular girl doesn’t like someone else having the attention, so she will “dis” her at every opportunity… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: ” To do battle with ‘Janice’ you need to keep your emotions in check and your head on straight…”
Blame rolls down hill pretty quickly here and disputes among them are often resolved by pinning the blame on people down the chain. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game comments ” The primary question in your letter has to do with a blame trail, and who is the scapegoat. That type of problem can best be addressed by clarifying the roles, duties, deliverables and deadlines.”
In our current Office-Politics Poll, 75% of respondents answered “No”… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game comments ” Being different does challenge the status quo, but it can also open the door to creative thinking and an inclusive workplace that embraces and respects everyone, no matter what shape, size or color they are.”
When a female boss flirts in the presence of male subordinates, would it be considered professional? Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds ” Can flirting be judged objectively or is it in the eye (and mind) of the beholder? Your letter raises many issues regarding culture, behavior, and gender. To answer it, I thought it would be very interesting to hear a male and female point of view. Below you will see two responses to your dilemma from Office-Politics Advisers, and my own response.”
My friend was learning some things on the computer and one of the co-workers said, “You don’t know that yet, boy are you slow!” and then laughed and said, “Hey, I’m just being honest!” Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “This sounds like the nastiness from a schoolyard! Your friend can do a few things to fight back…”
I’m 23 – still working a 20 hour week at the retail job I had while going to college… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “First off you can feel good that you’re asking yourself the question, “How do I get ahead?” Moving from where you are now, to where you want to be, is not impossible, but it will take effort, and goal-setting.”
Recently one of the girls in our office has developed a princess attitude… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “The flirtatious Princess (The Flirt) in your midst does sound nauseating, but let’s try to get some perspective so you can stomach working in the same office. The Flirt is using her sex appeal as a tool to increase her value in the office. The guys around her are clearly enjoying the game. This is an age old story… ”
Please tell me how to answer the following questions: ‘Why Don’t You Have Kids?’ or ‘How come you are an assistant?’ Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Humor is your best weapon. With a little thought I’m sure you can come up with some ‘zingers’ that you can throw at those nosy people — and make them step back and realize that their question was ‘out of order’.”
Let me first start by saying that I am terribly inept when it comes to office politics. I never seem to know the proper thing to do. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Your situation sounds like the stuff of grade school playgrounds, but it’s all too common in the workplace. Let’s pull this problem apart and see if we can find a solution…”
However, she has ingratiated herself to my supervisor and wants to become my supervisor. She and her husband have become very close socially, with our boss’s wife. I don’t want to kiss ass to succeed. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Sometimes the problems that come our way are opportunities for growth. Let me tell you the messages I’m getting from your letter, and then offer you some advice…”
Talking to my mentor, he tells me I need to be aware of peer resentment, and have the sense of awareness to recognize people that have in one way or another helped me get to where I’m at. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds ” I think your mentor is very astute, however if I was in your place I wouldn’t want to be dwelling on the idea that my coworkers were resenting me. It may be the truth but it’s not good self-talk. I would quickly try to refocus my energy, and my coworker’s on the goals ahead. How can you do this?”
I’m afraid my Boss is taking advantage of my success, yet taking all the credit for it, while “protecting” me. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds ” Essentially your question boils down to: ‘How can I climb the ladder without kicking my kind, supportive Boss in the face?’”
Now, because the other employees have quit because of this, I am the “last person standing” with mom, sister and the Boss. How do I handle this? Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds “In your letter you mention that you are working for the son, who is the “Boss”. However, I would venture to say that although his business title may be “Boss”, he is not really the Boss. The mother, the sister and the son are all in control of the business…”
What would you do if 2nd line management won’t listen? And 3rd line management won’t interfere? Wait until the project explodes? Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds ” It’s the ‘canary-in-the-coal-mine’ syndrome. I gather from your letter that you are front line in the production of this project/product, so you can see where all the cracks are, and where the ‘explosion’ will likely occur. But you have no authority to change the process, or fire the inept. And Management so far has turned a deaf ear…”
Did I get get a crummy gift from my coworkers because they think I did a crummy job or because they just didn’t like me? Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds “Gifts carry a message. For better or worse they are symbols of how the gift giver feels toward the recipient. They can show who is the ‘favorite’ and who is not. But it’s good to remember that it’s up to the recipient to decide whether to accept or reject the gift giver’s message!”
There has been talk of the company only hiring one of us permanently. Ever since, my friend has made me feel like I have to compete with her for the position… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds “What a sad turn of events when you were the person who gave your friend a helping hand back to employment… 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…”
One day, shortly after I contacted you, “Lucy” lashed out at me and a co-worker. My co-worker stormed away, but I saw it as an opportunity… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game comments, “We answer many letters at Office-Politics.com, and we’re thrilled when people write back to tell us whether the advice worked. Here is some new feedback we received today, on an Office-Politics letter and reply, originally posted in September, 2006.”
This particular issue is a problem year-round, but becomes particularly exaggerated at taxtime, where everyone deems themselves ‘the busiest person here today’. Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds, “I think we all have experienced moments when we dodge unofficial ‘duties’ (like being the office gopher, putting the recycling out, emptying the trash, replacing the toilet paper, etc.) — and we’re so relieved when the other person takes care of it. (Phew. I got away with it this time….)”
One of the writers who was already on staff and who has known the star of the show for most of his life (I try not to believe he got his position through nepotism but it seems likely) seems to have taken a dislike to me… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds, “Creative work, like team writing, really ’soars’ if people who work together can build on other people’s ideas — without trying to hog all the glory. Too bad this guy is insecure and feels the need to steal all the credit…”
She was very friendly at first… She would be best characterized as rough around the edges. I have been nothing but complimentary to her and everything was just fine and dandy. Then all of a sudden she turned on me like a bat out of hell… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds, “The main takeaway in my message to you is that there is a power imbalance. You are new, but you are Lucy’s supervisor. You are young. She is older. She has less power than you in the workplace. This may be causing resentment and feelings of inferiority by Lucy…”
The hospital management and staff are weak in skills and very back biting. We all took the Myers Briggs test. I am an INTJ... Franke James, Creator of the Office-Politics Game responds, “Since your office is open to taking psychological tests, perhaps they would also consider game-playing? Games can be an effective way to help solve relational problems.”
I have just joined a smallish city newsroom… I know that I am argumentative, but I really did not think I was being so at work. Franke James, Creator of the Office-Politics Game responds, “I find it curious that Management at a newspaper would think being ‘argumentative’ was a flaw. I thought it was a job requirement for reporters I’m only partly joking. It seems that reporters are by nature ‘skeptical’ beings.”
The girl is recently promoted. Now everything the girl does is wrong according to guys… Franke James, Creator of the Office-Politics Game responds, “It’s not surprising to hear that the promotion of a ‘girl’ to a senior position over these two guys is causing all sorts of jealousy and feelings of inferiority. But rather than just stand back and scratch our heads let’s try to come up with some solutions.”
One of my Bosses said, “You sit there and do nothing, why can’t you put notes in the lawyer’s software?” Franke James, Creator of the Office-Politics Game responds, “Your job description may be ‘receptionist’ but there’s a lot more to being successful at it than just doing the routine tasks… Many of the legal secretaries (and receptionists), I know have as much on the ball, or more, than many lawyers.”
(See bottom of page for Franke’s Archived letters from 2002 to 2005)
Franke’s Book Reviews
Book Review: 100 Ways to Get on the Wrong Side of Your Boss (And Strategies to Prevent you from Getting There!) Author: Peter R. Garber; Publisher: Multi-Media Publications Inc.
Book Review: Bullying Bosses: A Survivor’s Guide Author: Robert Mueller, JD; Publisher: BullyingBosses.com
Book Review and Interview: Become the CEO of You, Inc. A Pioneering Executive Shares Her Secrets for Career Success Author: Susan Bulkeley Butler; Publisher: Paribus Press
Articles and Interviews
Everyone wants to have more stamina.
It’s a competitive advantage in the business world. But how do you balance maximum effort at work with demands in your personal life? Franke James, Editor & Founder of Office-Politics explores that fundamental question in this interview with Marty Seldman,co-author of EXECUTIVE STAMINA.
Franke writes, “Giving advice on the letters received at www.officepolitics.com can sometimes appear to be an easy task. After all, everyone loves to give advice right? We can all see things in daily life that people are doing wrong, and the temptation is to jump in and deliver our judgment. But doing it well, in a way that will motivate a positive change in behavior, actually requires a lot of skill and compassion.”
The Devil Wears Prada will no doubt fuel some hot, haute water-cooler chat. Based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger, the film is a wickedly funny tale about working for a boss who is a tyrant (rumor has it that the book was inspired by Weisberger’s stint at Vogue Magazine working for Anna Wintour). Meryl Streep stars as Miranda Priestly, Editor-in-Chief of Runway Magazine. Think Cruella de Ville with Medusa eyes. While the movie is an entertaining romp about the travails of working for a tyrannical boss, it raises some important questions: If you work for a Boss-from-Hell how do you cope?
The good news is, most of your workmates enjoy – or, at the very least, tolerate – your company… More
Franke James suggests quietly observing, grooming your approach, before taking any action. More
Franke on Office-Politics & Culture:
Based on an interview in The Girl’s Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch)
Office politics is about the ethical culture and values that everyone in the office shares (or doesn’t share!). So, you have to ask yourself ‘What are the important values in my office?’ Do I fit in? Is openness and honesty encouraged, or is lying, cheating and bribery the unspoken rule? Depending on who you are and what your values are, you are going to be a ‘fish out of water’ in one office, and swimming happily in the other. Obviously most offices are not that black and white — there is a huge scale, but it’s the old ‘slippery slope’. Is lying okay when it’s the Executive secretary covering for the Boss? Is lying okay when safety inspectors come to investigate a contamination problem because otherwise it will cause mayhem with the stock price? Is paying bribes OK because that’s the way business is run in this country… It goes on and on.
I see office politics as encompassing all ethical, behavioral and moral issues encountered in the office environment. It’s about human nature.
You can’t escape office politics. But you can learn to play the game.
Everyone has an agenda. Awareness makes all the difference. It’s much better to understand how and why people are manipulating facts and/or events to bring about their desired outcome. Office politics is not necessarily ‘evil’. It’s a fact of life and everyone is better off learning how to deal with it — and how to use it to their advantage!
People need to be asking themselves questions all the time and be willing to be self-critical. For example: ‘How do my needs differ from the company’s needs? How are they in sync? How can achieving my career objectives benefit the company? Who do I need to ‘sell’ my idea to within the company to make positive change happen? Who’s agenda will block my ‘idea’?
Do your homework. It can really pay off!
What are you going to do when you’re faced with a tough situation at work? My number one recommendation is to step back and analyze what’s happening and why. You’ll never see an expert chess player make a move without thinking through all the counter-moves. Apply that same discipline to your own life. Take time to think before rushing ahead and possibly making matters worse.
Reading the letters on the site is a great way to deepen your understanding of office politics and human nature. I also encourage everyone to read books on the subject. They can give you the tools and tips to tackle some very tough issues, and adjust attitudes (sometimes your own!). I’ve recently assembled some of my favorite books into the Office-Politics bookstore. Hope you enjoy! Please send me an email to email@example.com to let me know what you think.
Franke’s Archive of Letters from 2002 to 2005
I am beginning to question my choice of careers. Every office I have worked in has been a challenge. Women have blamed me for things they did wrong, lied about things I did do and did not do, spoke to me like I am a child… Franke James, Inventor of the Office-Politics Game responds: “Your letter is full of disillusionment. It sounds like you’re in the wrong place for you. Obviously there are good companies and bad companies in the world to work for. Your letter shows that you highly value working in an ethical environment where everyone is pulling together for the greater good — and not bickering over petty incidents. That is an admirable goal…”