The University Record, March 25, 1997

Be aware of office politics

A workshop on "Office Politics: How to Make it Work for You" recently spurred a lively discussion of the not-so-kind ways that some people try to move up the corporate ladder. Part of the Women of Color Task Force Career Conference for People of Color, the session was led by Lillie Sawyers, dental clinic clerk, and Jimmy Myers, associate director of the affirmative action office.

Sawyers and Myers stressed the importance of making yourself aware of the devious tactics used by others. "A lot of us play the games and put up with the power plays in the office, and we don't even realize it," Sawyers said. If you are ignorant that these types of activities occur, they warned, others could easily take advantage of you.

The group leaders handed out lists of ways that some people try to get ahead, including back stabbing, taking credit for other people's work, discrediting others, assassinating your character, blackmailing you, excluding you from meetings, and triggering conflict between you and other people in the office.

There are many ways to try to survive in an environment where these tactics are used, but it is important to remember that how you react may actually work against you. "You can say most anything you want to say in the office," Myers said, "but there will be consequences for what you say or do."

Myers suggested three points of decorum to keep in mind in the office:


Never publicly criticize your boss.


Critique ideas, not people.


Do not belabor a small point. "Not every hill is worth dying for," Myers said.

Once you are aware of the ways that others can affect your advancement, you can take the initiative on your own to advance your career. The session leaders presented a list of 17 things that you can do on your own to continue your rise up the ladder. The list emphasized doing your work well and on-time, and making sure your boss knows of your accomplishments. This last point rang true for one audience member who related a story of how he came to discover that after a number of years, somebody else in the office had been taking credit for his work.

Sawyers noted that advancing your career does not mean that you have to change how you act around others. "Don't be afraid to be yourself," she said. "It may leave yourself open to deceptive tactics, but as long as you know your enemy, you can be yourself."