The joy of office politics

Some unfortunate souls choose to be in work they find satisfying, where they feel valued, and they get along well with their colleagues. They are deprived of the joys that come with strained work relationships and good office politics. Here are a few ideas for creating a juicy climate in your workplace.

If you are a manager, you can make a good start by dividing the staff into groups that have your favour and those who do not. The staff should get the idea of which group they belong to by the way you side with or disapprove of their ideas. Try complementing this through subtle body language signals such as shaking your head, or suppressing snorts as staff members offer suggestions. If you have a sense of fun, you can alternate membership of the groups from time to time.

Try to implement change on a fairly continuous basis before you give staff a chance to adjust to the prior changes. If you must consult, keep this at a fairly token level and, whatever you do, don’t run with any of their ideas or brief them of future plans. It is preferable that any talk of the future is kept vague and threatening. You can create a nice sense of insecurity by suggesting a restructure is planned that is likely to affect many positions, or at least the positions of those who are in the outcasts group.

You can always resort to the tried and true method of throwing your power around, imposing what you want on others. This is what being a manager is all about. At least it was in the old days. Whatever you do, don’t connect with staff at a personal level, asking them about their family or interests. To do so runs the risk of relating to the staff like, well... like ... people.

Office politics work best when the employees take an active role. Gossiping about your colleagues and manager always helps, as do jokes at their expense (never to their face of course). You too can use subtle body language signals to good effect. I suggest practising sighing and eye rolls until you get it just right. Resist the temptation to deal with issues directly and respectfully.

Make sure any comments you make are about what is wrong with the organisation. Reframe any positive changes your boss does in a negative light such as, saying they are only trying to ‘butter up the staff’, they are doing ‘too little, too late’, or they are just ‘shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic’. You get the idea.

There are lots of ways to resist ideas your boss may come up with. There is the obvious way of course, but I prefer the passive-aggressive approach. Say you support their ideas, but then privately undermine them. If things become particularly difficult between you and your boss, it helps if you do a lot of blaming, refuse to acknowledge any contribution you may have made to the tension, go over their heads, or threaten a workplace harassment claim.

I recommend combining at least some of the above ingredients, and let feelings simmer and stew over time. With a bit of luck, the whole staff as well as your organisation’s clients will appreciate the efforts you have put in.


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