Workplace Rights

Weekly (9/4/12)

Topic of the Week  Playing Positive Politics at Work

  • Accept the role of politics.
  • Study effective people.
  • Make deposits.
  • Know limits.

The Candidate: Positive Politics at Work
Having just survived the Republican and Democratic conventions, I got reflecting on the politics that confront all of us at work. According to a study by Robert Half, 2% of us have seen projects sabotaged, 17% of us have seen others take credit for someone else's ideas, 20% have seen the boss flattered for political gain and 54% have seen people gossiping and spreading rumors. Which reminds me of Clint Eastwood's, now famous, empty chair. Like it or not, once you've seen that monologue you can't forget it. And if you don't start playing some level of positive politics, you too could be facing an empty chair at work. Your own. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about bad politics, like backstabbing or brownnosing. The kind of politics most of us think of at work. No, I'd like to see more positive politics, like building community, having each other's backs or doing random acts of kindness for coworkers. That's why I've included four strategies to help you bring some good politics to where you work.
Accept the role of politics. I had an English teacher in high school that gave every writing assignment two grades: one for content and one for style. Is work any different? Every work project gets graded for its quality and for the support that it generates. That's precisely why it is so dangerous to avoid politics.
Study effective people. Let's face it, whenever anyone is successful at work we call him or her a suck up and make fun of him or her behind their back. I take a totally different approach. I like to buy the person a cup of coffee and pick their brain, because this is someone I can learn from.
Make deposits. The workplace often operates on a simple rule, you have to give to get. Give information, support or an off-the-record critique. But don't only look for what you can get from the people you work with, look what you can do for them. Giving someone a hand before they ask or offering a key piece of information that they don't know. Consciously give back every chance you get. The goodwill from people will pull you through when you start having a bad streak.
Know limits. I'm constantly thinking about worst-case scenarios at work. Not because I'm a sour pus, but because I like to anticipate problems and how I would go about solving them. First, the problem solving part of your brain always functions best when it's in shape. Second, because occasionally the exact problems that you thought up do happen, and it's nice to not be facing them for the first time.
The Robert Half survey also found only 14% of us consider ourselves active political players, while almost 79% say we seldom, or never, play the game. Maybe we need to have our own workplace political convention, where we can figure out ways to put more positive politics into our workday. I'd pull up a chair to that, wouldn't you?


Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the newly updated, award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"The only thing we have to fear is fearmongering itself."

–Maureen Dowd

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

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