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

Timothy Johnson responds

cover of Gust Tale Wind of Office PoliticsTimothy 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.

SWAT: Seize the accomplishment
What if the best “Special Weapons And Tactics” existed only if you had “Systems Working All Together”?  SWAT is the story of accomplishment; namely, how do accomplishments get designed and planned?  Using the principles of systems thinking, Timothy Johnson merges his experiences as a business consultant and a tactical law enforcement photographer to produce his most compelling story yet.

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 three books, SWAT: Seize the accomplishment, Race Through The Forest – A Project Management Fable and GUST – The Tale Wind of Office Politics


Did my trainer sabotage my efforts?

I’m currently in a 8-week internship and have 2 weeks left and need to finish strong and gracefully. During my internship, I was assigned to someone who’s supposed to teach me about the experimental methods and data analysis of my project… Next week, I want to ask my boss for a reference, but am concerned that my trainer potentially sabotaged my efforts.

How can I analyze crime if I’m stonewalled?

My job is to analyze crime. But I feel some of the detectives (one in particular) stonewall me – and then the other detectives always have his back. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “Because I volunteer with law enforcement, I was able to go right to the source for some insight on your letter. One of my good friends is a Lieutenant who oversees a role similar to yours.”

A Twisted Tornado of Office Politics

I was recently involved in a TWISTED TORNADO of office politics. At the time, I had no clue I was actually in the “clique”. I got close to a fellow employee who knew everyone… Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “The first three universal rules about dealing with office politics: 1) inhale 2) exhale 3) repeat. OK, now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s deal with your problem head on. Yes, bad people do get promoted because of their upward relationships.”

Sweet Sammy — the ambitious backstabber

I need your expertise in dealing with what I believe to be an overly ambitious backstabber… My boss and co-workers are like extended family to me. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “If you were playing a sporting event, would you be the type of person who just stood on the field and watched the scoreboard the whole game, or would you be actively engaged and playing? My guess is you would fall into the latter category, although in this sports analogy, you have become the stand-on-the-field individual.”

Snake removal failed

I wrote to you last year, “Snake Handling Not in Job Description“. You tendered good advice. Since then, the agency has ruptured. Tragically, one Animal Control Officer committed suicide as a result of the toxic culture, gossip and loose lips at work. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “First, I’m sorry that your efforts to remove the snake from my last response didn’t pan out, but it sounds like other issues in the department took the attention from her. You are in an understandable position of frustration. You are a rational professional who is trying to manage her career in the midst of extreme conditions. However, that may not be enough in this case.”

Hell at work since my manager is my boyfriend

Honestly, it has been hell because my manager-in-training happens to be my boyfriend. I found myself in a difficult position because at times when he tells me off at work, it’s usually fired as ‘Neat’ and ‘Double Shot’ so as to set an example that he is no man of favoritism. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “Ah, c’est la guerre! Your situation sounds very challenging indeed – almost like a cross between “Throw-Down with Bobby Flay meets Dr. Laura.” But all office politics – whether they take place in the cubicle or the kitchen – really are matters of the heart.”

How do I approach my boss to discuss a raise?

I do not know how to approach my boss to discuss a raise. That being said, one more thing complicates things: My company is currently in the process of being bought out, and we are not financially sound. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “You have a very precarious situation with the company’s financial status and the current economic outlook. You’ve brought up some very good issues about managing your own economic worth in difficult times.”

Hostile coworker taunts me with “golden boy”

I came to a position about six months ago and am having to deal with a hostile coworker. Instead of calling me by my name it is always “golden boy” or “chosen one”. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “It would appear in your case as though your reputation preceded you. There’s something on your resume that made this person see you as competition. His approach for dealing with it is to try to get under your skin.”

No longer the star in my boss’s eyes

Everyday I felt like quitting now as my loyalty is at its low, the only thing that pulls me back is that the company is still great and they are still good people around. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “You bring up an important issue that is too often neglected in business: psychological ownership. This is something you experienced when you first joined the company. Your boss, Andrew, who was also new, was very lavish in his praise and in demonstrating his appreciation.”

Coworker presents my ideas as his own

My problem is that from the day this person has joined, he has tried to upstage me and take credit for my ideas and treated me like a junior. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “One of the first things I do whenever I’m having an issue with somebody is find out if I’m the only one. I know it’s nearly impossible to believe, but sometimes I do rub people the wrong way…”

Office Karma: I wonder when will she get hers?

One of the non-family members is a complete bully, spy, know-it-all, done-it-all, backstabbing, wretch of a person. I believe in office karma – but sometimes – especially when it comes to this person you have to wonder when will she get hers? Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “Yes, there is such a thing as office karma, and no, you can’t decide when the deserving individual receives his or her comeuppance.”

Please explain email skewering Fortune 100 Boss

I know that I have done something that I am not supposed to do… writing electronic messages which contained sensitive information about my Boss for sole purpose of ranting and perhaps entertaining co-workers. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “Whatever is written in emails, Facebook, Blogs (comments or posts), or anywhere on the internet becomes a permanent electronic record. I’ve been bitten by this myself in the past.”

Hiding my brains from a know-it-all

I am tired of having to hide my own intelligence to protect someone else’s ego… but subtle cues that I should not have to muzzle my own solutions are obviously lost on her… Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “I would encourage you to remember that you are not the problem. You made it through law school and passed the bar exams; therefore, you are not an intellectual inferior…”

Part II: Clerk “M” is spying on us

I work in a government law enforcement office… Clerk “M” collects information on everybody openly and brings it to our superior. We are not doing anything wrong. It is the constant eavesdropping and spying that is unwanted. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “Having volunteered for some local law enforcement agencies, I have learned that your profession lends itself (rightfully) to a certain level of paranoia. To be effective in your jobs, you have to suspect everybody to a certain degree….”

I am not receiving the training I need

My supervisor and co-workers know that I am not receiving the training I need and generally have nothing to do all day. They have made comments about trying to place me on projects and get me out in the field. When they come up with something for me to do, though, it is usually a simple administrative task. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “Confucius once said, “Starving man wait long time for roast duck to fly into mouth.” You were hired because of your ability to work independently and take initiative… I’m curious why you have not done so with your own training.”

Coworker impresses manager with bafflegab

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. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “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.”

Part I: Chief Operating Officer wins Office Raffle

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. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “Well, the ideal solution would have been that the executives did not have their names in the drawing at all. If the raffle was to build morale, they screwed up tremendously with this gaffe. But yes, if you are looking for affirmation on a fair solution, she should have politely declined and returned her name to the box for someone else to enjoy the trip.”

Commander having relations with enlisted female

Recently I discovered that my Commander is having sexual relations with an enlisted female. That is definitely against Army regulations… Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “I talked about your situation with three friends and colleagues who have military experience. The answers came back somewhat varied, but all three agreed…”

Testified against Boss, now he wants me fired

My boss is trying to get me fired… I work for government (thank you for your sympathy) and last year there was an investigation on his actions and I was called in to testify… Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “Once the investigation was complete and he wasn’t fired following your testimony, did you attempt to extend an olive branch and make peace, or did you just sweep it all under the rug and pretend it never happened?”

Should President get inside scoop on evil plot?

Since our current boss is part of the evil plot to take over the world and her boss is a walking toxic billboard along with his boss; would it ever be appropriate to schedule a meeting with the President to give him the inside scoop? Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “If I understand you correctly, your management felt threatened by their direct reports, so they removed them, not thinking about the ramifications to the department or to your customers. Now you want to know if you should talk to the President of the University to tell him how evil they are and all they’ve done?”

It’s a Zoo where I work…

Most of my coworkers engage in chatty conversation that, while gossip, does not appear to have a malicious intent. I do not believe it is possible to stop the chatter, since it’s a zoo around here and lots of very odd things happen. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “There are some things to think about when dealing with the type of individual who thrives on gossip to bring down other people. Generally, this individual tends to be insecure about himself. This is demonstrated by the fact that intelligence is now an accused crime. Another thing is that this individual will not be accountable for the information that he is using against another person; innuendo serves as judge and jury. If he is doing it to you, chances are high that it is happening to others as well (you just happen to be the weakest of the herd at the moment)…”

Betrayed by confidants

Can you advise me on how to confront Will about the true source of this toxicity without offending him or inciting more harm by his friend the saboteur? Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “You’ve learned a valuable lesson in a very difficult way. However, it is a lesson that many people need to learn when entering a new and unfamiliar work environment: be extremely careful about selecting your confidants. There are some people for whom blabbing is a food group, and it sounds like Will and Grace fall into that category. You were wise to distance yourself from them early.”

No skateboard, over 40 and face doesn’t fit…

My ex-line manager said the creative team doesn’t want me because they are creative, into skateboarding, and you are over 40 and your face doesn’t fit. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “Outside of the legal aspects, I would recommend some objective self-assessment and analysis. One of the first questions is why you are not among the favorites. Well, for starters, you appear to have a back-bone…”

Part I: Nice to a fault

I’ve cried over this torment as it hurts my feelings and it has made me feel less of a human being… I’ve never been anything but friendly and nice… Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “Many professionals, including yourself, fall into the trap of thinking that “nice” is a dichotomy (either you’re nice or you’re not) rather than a continuum. ”

Part II: I was let go unfairly. Should I tell Board Member?

I think I was let go unfairly, and am thinking about letting him know the unfairness of how I was treated… Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: ” So now you’ve been terminated by this OM whose tail you’ve covered, and you’re wondering if you should let your one perceived ally… a board member… know what really happened. I’m going to fall on the side of “no” here… ”

Pros and Cons of Whistle-blowing…

I am wondering if you believe that it is a good strategy to do an end-round to the new director and discuss what I have witnessed and documented. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “The pro’s of bypassing two levels of management to go to a director is that you can fix an ongoing problem, be able to sleep at night, help your company to really improve its performance, and possibly be lauded as a hero. The con’s of doing the same is that you will be punished or fired for insubordination and that nothing will ever really change…”

Casanova Boss fueling catty gossip…

My Boss has a reputation of having numerous affairs with some of his secretaries (as well as female attorneys outside our office) with whom all have remained loyal to him for fear of losing their positions. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “If his Casanova reputation is so well known, you might gently remind him that his past actions may be catching up to him. While you neither condone nor condemn his behavior, in many people’s eyes, perception is reality…”

Snake-handling not in job description!

The Lead Tech has been able to “fly under the radar” while violating nearly every established policy or procedure including falsifying documents, abuse of sick leave, discrediting individuals or agencies, creating a hostile work environment, etc. Timothy Johnson, Author and Consultant responds: “Alas, you weren’t warned about the “snake handling” duties of your job. You’ve been placed in a difficult situation, and you’ve done a great job of identifying the key source of conflict: power…”

Hell working for Narcissistic Editor

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… Timothy Johnson, Author responds: ” You are dealing with one of the oldest tricks in the book for a snake politician: Divide and Conquer…”

My ‘old’ Boss still expects me to do work for him!

I do not need my old boss’s constant phone calls and e-mails… Timothy Johnson, Author responds: ” I’ve always appreciated the scripture that says, “No man can serve two masters for either he will love the one and other….” You get the point. ”

Can I trust my Bosses when they are all having extramarital affairs?

As if that relationship being in our faces all day wasn’t enough to deal with, the male VP admitted this past week that he is having an affair with the contact of our biggest client… Timothy Johnson, Author responds: ” You seem like somebody who has a strong moral compass, yet you’re in the midst of a bunch of lusty leaders. Your letter reads like a plot from a really bad soap opera.”

Sucked in by Suck Up

I work in a company, manufacturing equipment where the attitude of a few is that if you are a newcomer, you should not take up space within the company & you must be out in a few months… Timothy Johnson, Author responds: ” As a newcomer to an organization, you hold a delicate position. You are not yet well known or respected enough to be taken seriously; however, you’re able to observe from an outsiders view. ”

Timothy Johnson responds to: Co-worker driving us crazy, too…

Boris is rude, selfish, and wants to do things his way. He will openly argue with anyone who disagrees with his conclusions or methods. He refuses to work as part of our team… Timothy Johnson, Author responds: ” Boris is trouble. I must admit, though, that I am very perplexed. HR won’t keep him from going to a company-sponsored class, but they will allow him to run amok and do immeasurable damage every time he opens his mouth? ”

How do I work with a snake?

I don’t want to get caught up in playing some stupid office politics but I fear she may be trying to undermine my work to advance her position. Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “Wow… it sounds like you’ve assessed the situation pretty well. This new woman in your office appears to be a snake, and by all accounts I think assessment of her motivations could be accurate.”

Former ‘ghetto superstar’ seeks peaceful solution

The problem arose when a contractor joined our team and started to make fun of me behind my back. Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “Your letter reminds me of the scene in the Wizard of Oz when the question is asked, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Unfortunately, the same can be asked of many consultants and contractors…”

Power war is driving me and others crazy

I hate going to work. I thought of telling the partners that their sons are creating a hostile work environment… Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “The reality is that the brothers need to grow up; however, making them do so is not part of your job description…”

I am the office scapegoat. I loathe going to work…

It took me about two years of frustration, anger, depression, physical exhaustion, utter detachment, fatigue and sleeplessness, to realize that I have become a “target” a “scapegoat” for the office dysfunction. Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “To quote Cool Hand Luke, ‘What we have here is a failure to communicate.’ Unfortunately, the failure appears to be coming from you…”

Coworker throws hysterical tantrums…

Sue started crying hysterically… I got called into the office to see why I had been so mean to Sue. Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “Don’t Quit Your Job! Companies need more people like you around! Let’s review: You’re doing the right things, You’re acting the right way. You’re saying the right words. You’re showing the right motives…”

Bombarded by noise and frequent interruptions

I’ve mentioned several times to my Manager that it’s difficult to concentrate on my work because of the noise and interruption… Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “You have a couple of issues to address, but I think there’s a potential solution at least to help you better manage your work load. Because you are the face of your organization to visitors, track which times are off limits to visitors…”

I am being ridiculed behind my back…

The problem is I am very rough around the edges when it comes to dressing right, making polite conversation and have a hard time fitting it… Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “It’s unfortunate that people over the age of 18 cannot figure out that it’s not nice to pick on people because of how they look or act. That being said, you do have a couple of choices: stay or leave…”

Email falsely claimed I was “on the warpath”…

I noticed an email with my name in the subject line… Since it was about me, I read it, and learned that she was emailing her friend that I was “on the warpath”… Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “You’re STARTING to wonder why? Let’s put any guessing to rest right now. (Psssst… It’s Trudy.)”

Our office supposedly doesn’t have “office politics”

If you are coined “political” that’s negative in the company. What this means if you perceive a slight (which could be very real) by co-workers and bring it up then you are political… Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “Every workplace has office politics, and every person in a job is political (whether they will admit it or not)…”

Terrible mistake in confiding in my assistant…

I made the terrible mistake in confiding in my assistant about my job offers. Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “Can you come over for poker night? I really need to win back a few hands, and I think you’re just the person to help me…”

Unable to function

Please help as I am unable to function at work and at home like this I feel like I am going to blow up one day and have a nervous break down. Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “My question for you is, ‘Why you are letting her affect you?’”

Lies told to Homeland Security Analysts

We were told that we would need to ‘move towards the IT side’ in order to move up in the company. It seems clear now that they have no clue what to do with us, and maybe never will. Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “You and your colleagues need to look in the mirror and repeat: “I am in sales. I am in sales. I am in sales.””

Landed in a political minefield

I’ve just joined an organization, and I feel I’ve landed in the middle of a political minefield! Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “Wow… does your recruiter give refunds? Actually, you appear to be feeling overwhelmed because you have three different political issues going on simultaneously, and (as luck would have it) they are all intertwined.”

Toxic environment fed by candy-pushing coworker

I work in a very toxic office… On the surface she is pleasant and is always pushing candy on people… Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “Unfortunately, the reality of life is that some people will always resent other people. The other reality is that you probably will not change her… ”

What can we do about a coworker’s messy desk and body odor?

One of our co-workers has worked here for a very long time, and keeps her cubicle distressingly messy… Even more disturbing is that this person has very poor personal hygiene… Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “There are a couple of different issues at play here. The first and probably most difficult is the offensive hygiene… ”

Ostracized by rumors

I’m a teacher at a junior high school. Three teachers out of ten in my department conspired to remove me from the chairmanship… At some point they began spreading rumors about me throughout the school and beyond…. Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “Tell me, who are the junior high students and who are the teachers? The actions you mentioned are making it a little hard to tell who is imprinting on whose behaviors. That being said, you do have my sympathy, empathy and support… ”

Just enough rope to hang herself

I feel that this new employee lacks time management and organizational skills, does not have the necessary education and qualifications, and will not be able to handle all the added responsibility… Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “You probably will not need to do much to cause this individual’s demise. It sounds like she is on an express train to disaster… ”

My supervisor and I bid on the same job

Through office gossip, it was pretty clear that this was a set up to let her go. In fact, the hiring supervisor asked to me to apply for this job…. Timothy Johnson, Author responds, “Your letter spoke volumes about your character, and I am sorry that a great event had to be tied up with a political situation to oust somebody else… ”