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IS OFFICE POLITICS UNAVOIDABLE?

January 29th, 2006 | Posted by josantamaria in Articles - (0 Comments)

Can one be successful in his/her career without being involved in office politics? Can one avoid office politics?

I am just doing my job and doing it the best I can. I’m continuously improving myself to enhance my value to the bank where I work and, at the same time, to earn recognition and be rewarded with promotion. I had set my heart on the position of my boss who was due to retire. After all, I’ve always been getting outstanding or superior ratings in performance appraisals ever since I started working in our bank and this was 15 years ago.

I was shocked to read just last week, the memo of our president announcing the retirement of my boss and the promotion of my co-supervisor to department head. I honestly believe, and others agree with me, that my co-supervisor did not deserve the promotion for at least two reasons: he is always late in coming to work and he is not consistent in meeting targets. His edge over me is that he is “malakas” with our former department head and our Group Head, flattering them always, siding with our boss, telling unfavorable things (“making sumbong”) about employees and his peers to our bosses. His behavior during department meetings is “nauseating” to say the least. He is a perennial “Yes, boss” person and ego massager of our boss and of our Group Head. Many of us know these things about the newly promoted manager, but feel helpless to give feedback to our Group Head because of the close relationship between them.

Although I’m tempted to resign over this matter out of disgust, I can not do so because at age 48 I’m not sure if I can still find a good job in another bank like the one I’m holding now. But I’m so frustrated and disgusted. I cannot hide my frustration and disgust and pretend everything is OK with me, especially since I’m now reporting to this ex-colleague of mine whose competence I question and whose character I don’t respect. Should I ask for a transfer to another department, or to be assigned to a branch? But this will affect my career path since I want to stay in the Head Office and eventually become an officer.

What shall I do? Please help me.

Mr. Disgusted

 

You have correctly described your perceptions and feelings about your situation and about the person who is now your boss. Since you sought my advice, I will do so in the hope that it will help you in making the right decision. If you nurture these thoughts and feelings about your new boss, or look for situations to validate them, you will allow them to control your behaviors and this will affect your performance, and therefore, your career.

Many people who can’t explain the promotion of some other people are quick to attribute it to office politics, i.e., one who is strong with the “powers-that-be” or decision makers has an edge over others. They are quick to attribute to office politics the promotion of people whose competence they doubt, or who are on a fast track.

You write that you are not willing to resign from your bank and have doubts about the wisdom of getting a transfer to another department or be assigned to a branch because this will sidetrack you from your career goal. Knowing your options and the consequence of each one, which you don’t want to risk, I suggest that you exert efforts to change your view of the situation and your paradigm of your boss. If you shift your mindset that it was your new boss’ close relationship with your former boss and with your Group Head that got him his promotion, and that he earned his promotion thru achievements that you may not be aware of, you will change your attitude towards him. To change your mindset, be open to new information from reliable sources. I suggest you go directly to the Group Head and ask for the reasons behind the promotion of your peer because you had thought you were more qualified than he, but that you want to be proven wrong. Say something like this: “I came to see you, Sir, because I want to keep my mind at rest by getting the facts straight from you. May I know the basis for the promotion of ___________ to department head? I thought I was more qualified to assume the position since I have been getting outstanding or very good ratings in my performance appraisal ever since I joined our bank. Perhaps there are things that he has done that I may not be aware of. I simply want to be clarified”. Then listen to the explanation. You can also ask the retiring department head for the same clarification.

I hope they will be open to you and not take your desire for clarification against you. Nothing feeds rumors and gossips more than lack of information. Bosses who fully explain their decisions regarding career moves and the basis for making them, immunize their culture against accusations of office politics and favoritism, whether real or perceived. The grapevine is part of organizational life. It’s normal for people to want to exchange “inside information” and to want others to feel that they are “in the know”. But the grapevine must be fed with correct information.

You may not agree with the Group Head’s reasons for your peer’s promotion but accept them graciously. After all, it’s his judgment/evaluation that matters, not yours. Also, you asked to be clarified, and he gave it to you. Put matters at rest and accept his decision with humility. Then concentrate on your habits of hard work and continuous improvement.

But let me tell you also that it is not enough to do outstanding work. You must also be visible as the person behind the outstanding work. Your new boss, who had been your peer, is the one who will evaluate your tasks and appraise your performance. He is the one who will recommend your promotion to the Group Head, give you assignments that will enhance your professional growth and make you visible, and put you in the right career path. Cooperate with him; be a team player and acknowledge him as the leader of your team.

To establish a positive and professional relationship with him can be one of your enabling objectives to achieve your career goal. He is, after all, your #1 Customer; his standards are the criteria by which he evaluates your work. You don’t need to do what you perceived him to have done to get his promotion. These were your perceptions; you are not privy to the “big picture”. Carrying a grudge against your new boss will work against you for this will affect your relationship with him and your performance, such that you don’t want him to succeed or you want him to fail.

Suppress the urge to say things critical of and about your boss What you say are likely to surface and get to the knowledge of your boss no matter how strictly in confidence you’ve handled it. Neither should you entertain criticism about, or listen to other people talk, against your boss. You are likely to be drawn into the intrigue/gossip mill, and be quoted as saying things you may not have said. When you hear others say critical things about your boss, tell them to tell these directly to him so he can benefit from their feedback. Listening to negative talk on your part will only add fuel to the fire. If they are not willing to tell your boss directly, then express regret that you can’t help them. You are also role modeling for them what professionalism and being a Christian mean.

Above all, be open to the great possibility that your new boss will change his ways. We are not “still pictures” or “frozen food”. We are capable of changing, improving and growing, and becoming better persons when greater responsibilities are thrust to us.

God bless you.

 

Josie Santamaria

I AM LOCKED IN WRONG CAREER!

January 15th, 2006 | Posted by josantamaria in Articles - (0 Comments)

I know what is the right career for me but my late father’s parents, who supported my studies in college and who continue to support my mother and three sisters who are all still studying, won’t let me. My grandparents, especially my grandmother, who wields the power in our family and the families of my two aunts and an uncle, want me to work in the family business, because I’m the only grandson who carries their family name, and the eldest grandchild at that.

My late father had worked in the family business throughout his life until he had a fatal heart attack at age 38. I’m now 24 years old and had worked in the family business for almost 2 years to please my grandparents when I could have finished my MS in Physics.

My experience working in my grandparents business had convinced me that business is not and can never be my career. My mother told me to look at a business career on the positive side so that I can begin to like it. She thinks that I am biased and do not see the good side of a business career because I’m so focused on a research and teaching career in physics.

I finished BS Physics with cum laude honors from a state university. I like physics very much and I want to devote my life in research and teaching. To build a career in research and teaching requires that I take further studies i.e., take an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Physics, the latter in an institution abroad. I hope to apply for a scholarship to take a Ph.D. in Physics abroad, but I would need my grandparents’ financial assistance. I know that I have a chance to get a scholarship if I take my MS in Physics from my Alma Mater which is a state university and later to get a foreign scholarship to get a Ph.D. degree.

I agree with my grandparents that I will not become rich in this career but it is what will make me happy and fulfilled.

What can I do? Please help me.

Mr. Distraught Scientist

 

I agree with you that you can find fulfillment of your talents and potentials, and be happy if you are in the right career. You are sure of what you want but you can not express your career choice without alienating your grandparents who want you to be in their business, possibly as their successor. You are sure of your career inclination; a career in physics, doing research and teaching, is what you want to do.

Your problem is how to give a firm and definite NO to your grandparents without having to feel guilty and alienating them since your family is dependent on them for support and you for further studies in your chosen career.

So how do you go about giving your assertive NO that will result in a win-win situation? I suggest that you make an appointment to talk to your mother and then to your grandparents. But before you do, prepare what you will say.

Perhaps you can outline what you will say according to the suggested format:

1.      I know you want me to help you in the business, perhaps to take major responsibilities. I really tried my best to like the tasks given to me these past two years.

2.      However, I am not happy doing what I have been doing these past 2 years. I have inherited a different set of genes from you, perhaps your recessive genes. No matter how I tried to see the positive side of a business career, I am not cut out for it. My heart is not in it. If my heart is not in it I can not be successful in it. I know you want me to be successful and happy. I can be successful and happy if I’m in the right career. If I’m not successful, I will feel inferior and it will affect my life, my self esteem, my present and my future.

3.      My career interest is in physics. I like it very much. I am very happy when—— (Here, cite the activities in physics that enthuse you.) I want to spend my life doing research on —— (Here cite again your field of interest in physics) and teaching students about my findings and the knowledge I acquire from it.

4.      Please give me a chance to pursue my career interest. I need your help to pursue an MS in Physics this coming June. After taking MS, or perhaps, while taking it, I will apply for a doctorate in physics in a good university in the USA and apply for scholarship with board and lodging. I can not accomplish these with out your blessings and your active support.

5.      Perhaps one of my sisters and some of my cousins will have a business inclination and follow in your footsteps. Successful businesses are run by many women, just like you, Grandma, do.

6.      Please help me fulfill my vision of being a great physicist, doing research in —— and publishing a book on my research.

I hope, Mr. Distraught Scientist, that your script, prepared in advance, and delivered with conviction but with respect and humility, will get the nod and support of your elders.

God bless you.

 

Josie Santamaria

My job as administrative supervisor is dull, boring and repetitious. I can do all my tasks mechanically and effortlessly, and this is not an exaggeration. I’m very frustrated.

At 45 years old, and female at that, it will be very difficult for me to change jobs and career, and change employer. The mindset of my co-employees is that I’m the administrative supervisor and no one can think of me in any other role.

I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and interested in an HR job, However, our company of 18 people, including the owners, does not have an HR unit and has no plan of having one. It is owned by a nice Chinese couple and we are a trading company engaged in garment wholesale. The salary and benefits are OK; this is why I’ve stayed this long. My relationship with my bosses, my peers and my staff of two people are OK. It’s my job that is frustrating.

Applying for an HR job in another company will be difficult considering my age. I don’t want to start in an assistant position all over again.

Ms. TGIF

 

You are sure that you want to change jobs and career, from administrative to HR, but you are doubtful of and fearful about, the prospect of getting an HR supervisor job in another company, considering your age and gender, and getting a compensation package similar to what you are now getting.

You ask: how do I know I need a career change? The first criterion is what you yourself have provided; i.e., you find your job dull, boring and repetitious such that you dread Mondays and look forward to Fridays. You probably look at your watch often if it is time for merienda, lunch or to make an exit to the door when it’s time to go home.

Other symptoms, not true of you but experienced by people who need to change jobs and careers, are:

    • feeling of tiredness and exhaustion
    • frequent complaints of illness such as headaches, dizziness, allergies, diarrhea, etc. to justify absence from work
    • disengagements from work such as frequent visits to the comfort room, texting, making phone calls, etc.
    • perking up only when it is payday

Job security and good interpersonal relationship at work are the usual reasons why we hold on to a job that no longer satisfies and fulfills us. Other reasons that are extrinsic to the job but which justify our staying on to it are:

    • loyalty to the bosses/owners of the company
    • “golden handcuffs” e.g. attractive perks and benefits that one enjoys
    • tenure, i.e., one has invested 10-15 years of his/her life and considers it a “waste” to throw such investment away
    • looks forward to receiving an attractive retirement package if offered
    • looks forward to retirement at 60 years or 65 years (if in government service)
    • co-employees have become “family” to them

The above are the wrong reasons for holding on to your job if it is no longer satisfying your intrinsic needs for challenge, growth and sense of achievement.

I wrote a series of four articles on career change and which were published in the People at Work section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in September 2001. These articles were published in my book, Managing Your Work and Career published by New Day Publishers.

You ask, what can I do? In turn, I ask you:  what options do you have?

One option is to stay in your company for the reasons you have cited. You have two sub-options: one, you continue to stay in your current administrative position and two, you transfer to another job in another section in your company. To remain in your current job and function, and avoid/minimize frustration, you need to change your mindset about it so that you can begin to enjoy it again. Do not say that your job is boring, dull and repetitive. What you perceive affects your attitudes; your attitudes affect your actions. These are your perceptions which you have the power to change. Be grateful that you have a job in a good company. You also need to take a good look at the following assumptions you have which affect again your work attitudes and behaviors:

    • you can do ALL your tasks mechanically and effortlessly
    • your co-employees CAN’T think of you in any other role
    • applying for an HR job will be DIFFICULT for you because of your age.

Look for ways you can improve your performance. Tell yourself that things can and should be improved. Re-engineer your job so that it can be done more efficiently and effectively. For example: improve the systems of doing the administrative tasks which are done by you and by your staff. If the system is effective, document it so that whoever succeeds you has something to follow and build on. While doing this, be happy and grateful that you are contributing to the efficiency of the company.

The second sub-option is to look for a job in another unit in your company that you enjoy and then ask the owners to transfer you to it, without loss of status, salary and benefits. Never mind if it is not in HR or in the field of psychology. The important thing is that you like and enjoy what you do. Being in a small company, you can even create your own job description with tasks that respond to critical needs that are not being currently met, and convince the owners to put you in it.

The second option for you is to apply for a job outside your company. Remove your mindset that, at your age, you can not find a better job along the line of your interest. If it is in HR, what particular function in HR are you interested in? Recruitment? Training? Compensation and benefits? Salary administration? Employee relations? Etc. Which function do you now have competencies in? What transferable skills do you have that you can highlight in your resume?

When you want to start a new career, one strategy is to accept a lower-level rank, learn as much as you can and then work yourself up. Another strategy is to take up special courses or enroll in a formal course in your field of interest.

Update your resume. Look for and read articles on effective resume writing in the internet or from books. I also wrote a series of articles on writing effective resumes which were published in the People at Work Section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in October 2004 and which New Day Publishers published in my book. Managing Your Career To The Top.

Then get information on companies or organizations you can apply to which need people for the job you want. Sources of information include the following:

    • Your network of friends , family, and  relatives. Let them know that you are job hunting and that you can provide them with your resume. Keep tab of the people to whom you have given your resume and follow up with them.
    • Advertisements of companies for existing vacant positions. For example, the Sunday Philippine Inquirer has Job Market sections which list and describe many vacant positions. Ads are only the tip of the iceberg. There are more job vacancies that are not advertised as people resign to join other companies or to go abroad.
    • Job Fairs sponsored in big shopping malls or by the Public Employment Service Office (PESO) in city governments.
    • Others.

I notice that there are companies that do not specify required age range. If a company has a vacancy in your desired job but specifies an age range, you can emphasize your skills and your mental and emotional maturity to compensate for your age.

Do not resign from your job until you have found the right one. Meanwhile, be productive and efficient in your current position. When you resign, you leave behind your documented systems to guide your successor. This will please your current employers.

God bless you.

 

Josie Santamaria