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10 Things I’ve Learned From Workplace Politics

Note: this is not about any workplace in particular.

They say you shouldn’t burn bridges, and that’s true. But I’ve burned bridges before, and it’s hard not to be angry sometimes if you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of.

10 Things I've Learned From Workplace Politics
10 Things I’ve Learned From Workplace Politics | Photo courtesy of Victor1558

The trick is to buck up and apologize if you’ve made a mistake, and try to be professional. it might take a few months for some water to flow under the bridge, but it’s worth it. In my experience, people really respect somebody who can admit their mistakes and confront a situation honestly.

Sometimes you can be professional and it doesn’t make a difference. If you are in a situation that is really not working, keep your head up and look for something new. Just stay professional. You’re better than that, right?
I’d like to say that I’ve never gossiped or been passive-aggressive at work or had a negative attitude, but then I’d be lying. When you feel stressed or powerless, you sometimes have a bad attitude. I don’t believe it when I read columns by consultants that talk about the importance of avoiding all office politics and gossip. We aren’t robots, and it’s tough not to get sucked in when you’re building relationships with colleagues, celebrating victories and commiserating over failures. You want to be careful though… negativity builds on itself.

When you enter a new job, learn about that place before you start making changes. Understand the office culture, the history, what has been tried before. Take time to get to know your colleagues and direct reports. Be honest and open and see opportunities, not challenges. Bring Timbits for everybody.

Be strategic about what is important. Let’s say you were just elected president of the United States of America due to an overwhelming wave of support. What is the first piece of legislation you will pass? Because you might only get one thing that will pass through relatively unopposed before your popularity and power begin to subside.
Be collaborative. Silos are dangerous. Help out your colleagues and they will help you out.

Do the things you hate doing. Those are your weak areas and blind spots. For me, that means getting better at project management and organization. For some people, it’s sales or relationship-building. Fear can be a powerful motivator. I feel fear before I step on stage. If I’m not afraid, it’s a problem; it means I’ve become complacent.
Try not to sleep with anybody you work consistently with. It happens, I get it. But do your best. Because it can make your office a pretty tough place to work if it doesn’t work out. So… yeah. Make sure it’s true love.

With Facebook and social media, it’s easy to stay friends with former colleagues and bosses. Do it. They will come in handy in the future. They will give you advice, write a reference letter, or be a reference on the phone. Maybe, down the road, they will give you other work too. Unless your boss was a total lunatic, it’s good to have a cordial relationship with them after you’ve left.

Job transitions are happening more and more often these days, and we have to learn to be good at them. We need to maximize value and be useful as soon as possible. A colleague recommended I read The First 90 Days, and I will pay it forward. I don’t know the guy who wrote it, but it’s helpful. Read it before you start a new job. Read about your new organization. Read more in general. Knowledge is power.

For more things Josh Bowman has learned, visit Ten Things I’ve Learned

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