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Coworker impresses manager with bafflegab

modified photo by franke james using licensed istockphoto ŠiStockphoto.com/Chris Wynia

Dear Office-Politics,

I work as an engineer in an Indian multi-national corporation. My work experience is around 6 months. I have a co-worker, ‘Ben’, who was my classmate in engineering for 4 years.

FYI ==> the entire engineering class did not like him…

We joined the same team around same time. I joined 15 days after Ben. We do QA work and our main responsibility is filing bugs. In the past 6 months, I filed around 45 bugs but Ben has filed around 10.

Still he manages to be the “most lovable” person for the project manager (she consults Ben every time she has a doubt). He has around half the knowledge as me, but when the manager comes, Ben answers her query in such a way that he makes it look as if what he is explaining is truly difficult. When the manager comes to me, she gets a response which is good enough but not filled with confusing bafflegab.

Ben is also an extrovert (I am not an introvert!! ), talks too much and makes the people around him feel he is the nicest guy in the world. People around him love him initially, but gradually lose faith in him (that’s what happened in our college).

But as the IT industry in India has a lot of attrition, these guys make a good name, good promotion and jump fast to the top (I feel). They won’t stay in any company for long and start jumping. How should I deal with these guys? I know that I should let only my work do the talking but Ben sometimes stabs me in the back.

Please help me in this.

Programmed to Perform

timothy johnson

Dear Programmed,

Alas, if only others’ perceptions of us were based on our performance alone. I suppose if that were the case, this site would cease to exist.

The reality of today’s workplace is that there needs to be equilibrium between performance and self-promotion. You have placed a strong emphasis on performance to the point where you are almost ignoring self-promotion. Your colleague, on the other hand, is pushing self-promotion without much performance to back it up. Either strategy can be damaging to a career if things start to implode.

It sounds like you have already figured out his strategy. He is upwardly mobile and does not want to stay in a quality assurance job locating programming bugs. Therefore, he is “packaging and selling” himself as potential management material so he can get out of doing what he’s doing. If your company is keeping track of performance measures the way you are, and if his performance review is based on those measures, then his plans for upward mobility within the company could come to a close very quickly.

Your letter communicated a certain level of defensiveness about his tactics, especially when the boss comes and asks you questions. It may be that he is a better communicator than you are, based on her reactions to both of you. You might ask one or two coworkers to watch your exchanges with your manager. Are you possibly coming across (unintentionally, of course) as condescending or insulting or arrogant? Knowing the answer is only half of the equation; effectively communicating the answer is the other half.

In the end, though, I would encourage you to focus on your own career strategy. Others will take their own path to the top (or plunge to the bottom), but that is for them to manage. In the end, the only person for whom you can take ownership is yourself. If advancement is also your goal, ask your manager, your mentor, or your peers for advice on how you might obtain your goals. Many quick climbers eventually butt up against the “Peter Principle” and hit their point of incompetence. Your objective is to remain on your path and keep moving yourself forward.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.

Timothy Johnson, Author & Consultant

Timothy Johnson is the Chief Accomplishment Officer of Carpe Factum, Inc. His company is dedicated to helping individuals and organizations “seize the accomplishment” through effective project management, strategic facilitation, and business process improvement. His clients have included Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, Wells Fargo, ING, Principal Financial Group, and Teva Neuroscience. Timothy has managed projects ranging from a $14 billion class action lawsuit settlement to HIPAA compliance, from software conversion to process reengineering, from strategic IT alignment to automated decisioning, from producing a training video to creating a project office environment. He is currently an adjunct professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, teaching MBA classes in Leadership, Managing Office Politics, Creativity for Business, and Project Management.

An accomplished speaker, Timothy has enthusiastically informed and entertained audiences across the nation on the topics of project communication, office politics, creativity, and meeting management. He has written two books, both business fables: Race Through The Forest – A Project Management Fable and GUST – The Tale Wind of Office Politics.

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