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.
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.