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Is the deck stacked against me?

Dear Office-Politics,

I am working for a telecommunications company. Currently, I am one step before a managerial position, being one of the senior supervisors of the Operations Division. My dilemma is, I know (and most others do) that my boss’ eyes are already centered on another supervisor, of a team functionally the same as mine (teams are geographically defined). This is in spite of the fact that I feel I am a better performer and more technically adept. This is not just my own opinion. Others notice this too, and agree that I am equally, if not far more entitled.

I have tried various approaches. 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”. They do, only to make me dimmer.

The problem is that the culture here in my work place is somewhat like you should “be noisy, loud, be omnipresent… TO BE FAMOUS”. You cannot present your opposing ideas even in a well delivered manner, else, you’d be branded as “not belonging” to the culture. I guess I’m just a victim of this.

There isn’t a clear or impending promotion yet. But that’s the problem… if and when it comes, I know I already lost the game even before this writing.

Should I leave?

Noise on the line


dr. rick brandon
dr. marty seldman

Dear Noise on the line,

You seem to be someone who is knowledgeable about organizational politics. We always say that awareness and the ability to read people and situations is at least half of being savvy. Unfortunately being savvy is not a substitute for power. Savvy can help you analyze your situation, initiate strategies to maximize your chance for success and choose the best working environment.

In your case your analysis of the fact that your boss has imbued someone else with the “halo effect” seems to be supported by the views of others. It sounds like if decisions were based on competence and merit you would be the pick.

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?

The answer to that depends on many variables. If you are young, confident, have marketable skills and few geographic restrictions the decision is a lot easier.

We often advise people to create a positive net worth and savings; maintain an external network; and routinely check their market value so that they do not feel trapped when they find themselves in these type of situations.

If you do decide to leave, use your savvy skills to determine the true culture of any organization you contemplate joining.


Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success

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.

  1. One Answer to “Is the deck stacked against me?”

  2. I recently created myself a web-address nickname ‘free2market’.

    It seemed rather fitting in relation to my very recent misfortune.(at least for now) I had a very similar situation occur to me as is mentioned by “Is the Deck Stacked Against Me?”.

    On September 11,2006 I joined a local marketing company that specializes in pre-development real estate. There are 4 principal owners/partners within the company and each have financial stake in the Marketing company as well as within each real-estate project that we were to market. Each have a vast experience base in sales and in real estate but very little in Marketing. They needed a Marketing Director and my experience fit their needs very well.

    I have around 14 years of advertising and marketing experience including a comprehensive knowledge of media buying. I was a HERO in the beginning and the day I interviewed I taught 2 of the 4 partners whom are also each men (and either blood related or life-long friends), how to save $40,000 on one negotiation (translated into a savings of $480,000/year). Within the months to follow, I continued to prove my worth very silently… never was the bragging out loud type.

    The President of Marketing, also one of the 4 shareholders, was able to move to a city that was home to his (personal stake) project within 3 months of my arrival. Most days I worked 12-13 hours (sometimes in the office, sometimes at home — I am a single mom of a ten year old). But nonetheless, I worked my tail off!! I began to be handed too many responsibilities for one person to handle.

    The President of marketing told me to dictate. The problem was, they refused to let me hire any help, and I would be reprimanded for any additional costs incurred to sub-out work. I then thought of the idea of getting interns.

    I mentioned it to one of the partners and they told me it was brilliant, that’s what I get paid for and to get it done. So, I initiated contact with the local college. Well, another one of the partners felt as though I went over his head and put a stop to the idea. I then was told by the President of Marketing (remember a partner as well), that I had a ‘green light’ to hire someone to help me at the project that he had such great personal interest in. I told him I had a great candidate, and he quickly stated, “I must hire a man”.

    You see all the management of each real estate project as well as the 4 partners are all Married Men with Years of Bonding and they each wanted a man that they could travel with and have dinner with in-order to keep up good communication and without having jealous wives at home. It was at that moment that I realized that each of them wished I too were a man. Within a week of this conversation, I was fired.

    I thought I would have been more shocked, but I felt it coming. The other office staff did as well and each triumphed at “The Office Politics Game”. It is very hard as of now to pay the bills, but I take PRIDE in knowing that I did do the best job I could while I had a job with them. I was the only person within the company with media buying experience as well as experience in advertising.

    I have learned several lessons from this experience and I am currently struggling to begin my own venture. I had not expected this misfortune and had NO savings for this, but “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger”, so I will give it my all for myself and my son. WOW, felt good to vent that out. Thanks for your inspiration to do so!! Keep Inspiring and Teaching…. everyone can gain knowledge and valuable “Life Lessons” even if they don’t realize it yet!!

    By Mary on Feb 27, 2007

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