Thursday, November 29, 2007


So after yesterday's Grinchiness, I went to the world's largest publicly offered search engine and googled the words "kissing ass." I figure, barring hiring a professional coach, I've got to figure out the subtle art of playing politics. Google proved helpful. It gave me Guru Jeff and eHow.

Of course, some of these are just common sense. For example, number one on Guru Jeff's list:

Never talk bad about the current boss to anyone. Ever.

And why, you ask? Two reasons really. First, because you can trust no one to keep it to themselves. And I mean, no one. Second, because it will always get back to the boss. Always. And that will suck for you, when it does. As an added caveat, when you leave a job, that doesn't mean you can now freely trash the boss. That's just bad form and will make you look unprofessional to future employers, as well as former and future employees.

Never confide personal details about yourself to anyone at work.

This one isn't that easy, because we all want to be friendly and personable at work, but this is a good rule to abide by. I've had mixed experiences with this rule.

In my first job here in D.C., I was very forward about my personal life and free with my opinions. Bad idea. In my second job, I was led to believe I could be myself, because the organization believed in that kind of culture, but saying they believe that and actually behaving that way are entirely different things. In other words, don't trust that.

In my recent job, I made a point of having no personal mementos or pictures around or talking about my life. Regardless of the mixed results, it's generally a good rule to go with. The most important point to know here is, you don't want to give anyone anything they can manipulate to use against you.

Never, ever make friends at work!

This is also a tough rule to live by, because, again, you don't want to seem cold or impersonal. Here's how I interpret this one: a) never date, sleep, or move in with people you work with. It gets around and you'll become known as "the one who sleeps around"; b) it's okay to go out for drinks occasionally, but don't make it a regular thing and never have more than two drinks. When you drink, you say stupid things and those stupid things are remembered; and c) never invite people you work with over to your home for dinner/parties/family events until you're at least two to three jobs removed from them.

It's the rare work environment where you can mix professional and personal. I've experienced this positively in other places, but not in this town. In fact, socializing outside of work and being "friends" with my colleagues in my first job in this town ended up creating more problems than it was worth (and my socializing was only one-tenth what others engaged in.)

This goes for invitations from colleagues, too. Just graciously decline. You have other plans. Even if you don't, say you do. Work is work. You're there to work. Not to build a social network.

A couple of Guru Jeff's other rules are sensible, insofar as no one will look out for you but yourself. Just because you're a nice person doesn't always mean you're going to get the next promotion or project. While you shouldn't railroad others, you also shouldn't be afraid to ask about what possibilities exist for you when a position opens up you know you're qualified for.

For example: when your boss retires or moves on. If he or she is well-liked and you get along, ask if they'll put in a good word for you at the next level. Remember: Asking is free. And if you don't ask, you'll never know if you might have a shot at landing the next good thing. Unless you're being specifically groomed, you have to make others aware of your interest.

The rest of Guru Jeff's rules are difficult to swallow for me. These are the rules that make people assholes, in my opinion. Surely there are better ways to get ahead and to encourage success in others. I'll grant you, we all have egos and we all like to be stroked, but some of this stuff is cutthroat and vile. Others are just flat out creepy, like finding out where the muckity-mucks go to church or socializing and then just "bumping into them" and chalking it up to great minds thinking alike.


I'm not entirely sure I learned anything I either didn't already know or haven't already tried. The worst part is, knowing I've tried some of this stuff, I'm then left to wonder if I'm actually a not nice person.

To read more, go here: Guru Jeff and eHow.

P.S. I don't count these two sources as experts or the definitive word on playing the politics game. I just found the information somewhat amusing, while at the same time, being slightly spot on. Undoubtedly there are better resources out there.


Anonymous said...


Looks like I blew it.

- Phoebe

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Pheebs: Yeah. Me, too. Often. I'm learning, though. Still, some of this stuff, I can't abide. I guess that means I'll never make it to the corner suite, eh?

Sideon said...

Based on those rules...

...I'm royally screwed.

But my prior asshat boss was fired and I'm still here. What's up with that? Gah.

D said...

I'm royally screwed too, Sid, so let's go have a drink, eh? I've never worked with you, have I??

If so, I'm CERTAIN I never said anything negative about the boss. I never would.

Fuck, by this guru's rules, I couldn't possibly be MORE of a fuck-up. No joke.

I wonder if the guru ever lived in a country where work is really the primary source of socialness and other people who (sorta) speak your language.


Also, I hired a professional coach -- more than once. Clearly, I am good at SOMETHING: Namely, throwing away perfectly good money.

D said...

Also: This whole thing makes me quite angry. This idea that these places where we spend way too much of our lives are somehow supposed to be totally off limits to anything "real" about humans. That is so completely jacked, I can hardly see straight.

When you think about it, we went from religion ruling the world, to governments and military ruling the world, to corporations ruling the world. It's scary how much power they have -- and they're far more autocratic and capricious, often, than religion or government/military even have been. Less actual bloodbaths, perhaps, more leeching of the very heart and soul out of people.

What a life.

D said...

Also - I'm scared.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Oh, D... I'm scared, too. And angry.

Guru Jeff's rules piss me off, too. Government regulation aside, corporations have become the blood-soaked, coffer-filled, dungeon-chambered feudal lords of the masses and we are just their vassal slaves.

Aside from moving to a remote mountain village or desert island and living off the land/grid, I see no end in sight to this type of corporate culture.

That scares me more than anything else.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Sid: Impart your wisdom to us. How did you manage to conquer your asshat boss?

ME said...

For six months, I surreptitiously planned my wedding & departure from my last job from the cube adjacent to the biggest office gossip.

It was completely unnatural for me to keep that quiet. But we were going through layoffs and I wanted to leave on *my* timetable. Keeping mum was appropriate to those circumstances.

If I did that now, I'd be screwed. One of my new co-workers is one of the few people I can talk to about being a step mom. Just having someone who can relate to the sitch (4 teenage step kids) has been invaluable.

Guru Jeff can go FAQ himself.

One antidote to corporate culture: entrepreneurship. That's where I find some hope and rays of light in the business world. It's the flower shop dream. :)

Cele said...

While I'm all for the not talking about your bosses past, present, and you never know who is future, the rest of the rules are bunk. If you are married to your job, Who me? sometimes the friends at work are the only friends you have. Well and my online friends of course.

So does Guru Jeff really have a job or did he make one for himself?

Gunfighter said...

"Never make friends at work...."

No doubt!!!

Gunfighter said...

Oh... I meant to add that the WORST violators of government regulations concerning the treatment of employees in the workplace... is the federal government of these United States.

I could tell you horror stories, but believe me, if I did, I'd be worried about MY job next.