BANG! The door to the meeting room bashed open. In crashed a senior manager.
He'd kicked the door open of the meeting room in which I sat, waiting for the 1 o'clock meeting to start.
A face like thunder. Not caring who saw him. Completely aware of the impact he would make on the people around him (if there were any, I was early).
I laughed. I couldn't help myself. I laughed out loud. It was too ridiculous.
It was quiet for a moment. An anxious second or two. And then, amazingly, he laughed too, a rare bout of self-awareness breaking through the cloud of misery and bad manners.
Sometimes you tell me stories too.
About how your boss doesn't want you around. How he or she is undermining you or scaring you.
How they're manipulating you and the people around you.
How you - essentially - feel unsafe, scared, resentful.
Tired of office politics.
Tired of having to play the game. Tired of having to think about how so-and-so might react if you say this or that. Tired of having to think about who might talk to who and what they might say.
How you have started to hate your job as a result.
It's one of the first things we'll be talking about in my Career Freedom programme. How you're feeling. Why you're feeling like that. The barriers you see in your way to becoming happy in your career.
And yes, it often comes up: office politics.
As long as you work with people you're going to have to deal with politics.
What I've learned about office politics is this:
1. It's not personal
It really isn't. But it can most certainly FEEL that way. It's difficult to take a step back, and assess what's going on with dry eyes and an objective look.
But it's exactly what you SHOULD do. Step back. Assess what's going on. Know how you're feeling and why. Be objective, and know it's 'only' work.
2. Know your own values - AND that of the organisation
Once you know your values you can recognise when they're not being met.
You can recognise the values playing out in the organisation as well. And no, I don't mean the ones that are written on that poster in the hall. I mean the ones that you can see in everyday interactions, in the words and actions of senior leaders, the behaviour people can get away with (like - say - kicking a door in and walking around with a face like thunder).
3. Assess your 'stakeholders'
Yes, that all sounds a bit project-y, doesn't it. But 'mapping' your stakeholders is a very useful exercise, not only in projects. No in your career, or career change too!
It's Project You, remember?
So, what are your (career) goals? Who do you need to be on board to achieve them? Are they important? Or can you just tell them afterwards? What do they actually THINK of your goals? Will they be willing to help you?
4. Apply emotional intelligence
Yes, to yourself. By stepping back and managing your own emotions.
But also by applying social intelligence.
Your manipulative manager? She might just feel really insecure about her job. Or feel like an impostor. She may feel threatened.
That senior manager? With the annoying habit of kicking in doors and scaring employees?
He may not know the impact his behaviour is having on others. He may only be accustomed to the control-and-command way of leadership and never had any leadership training. (Or he is just a total dinosaur who should never have been promoted to that position in the first place. But you never heard me say that, OK? And you'll still need to find a way to work with or around him).
Bottom line is that you need people to make stuff happen. For that project at work. For Project YOU.
And you need people to make your career change happen.
Which means that (office) politics is here to stay.
And yes, it may be hard. It'll take some working out. It'll take managing yourself, and others.
But you can do hard things. And be strategic. Whilst managing your own emotions.
Because what's at the end of it is you in a career you love and thrive in. The recognition you deserve. The results you're after.
And that's worth it, right?
Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler.
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