How Well Do You Play the Game?

Monster Members Share Their Stories and Advice About Office Politics

How Well Do You Play the Game?

When we asked Monster members, "How well do you play the game at work?" the question provoked a range of responses. Many felt their inability to deal with workplace politics had hurt their careers. Others were baffled by people who got ahead based on looks, knowing the right person or doing the right amount of kissing up -- despite being unqualified for their jobs. And still others had enough confidence in their own political skills to give advice to others.

Check out these stories, rants and advice to strengthen your own game.

The Game's Not for Them

I think you're enforcing "the game" by even mentioning it. There shouldn't be "games" in the workplace. People go to work to produce goods and services.

I will not participate in office politics. I do believe that it is a lot of backstabbing. I feel if you are a snitch, upper management will feel that you will tell something on them as well.

I guess people like me have to learn to be social, not sensitive. It's easier for me to have a good relationship with people like clients, but I feel the relationship within the office is much more difficult to deal with. I'm a hardworking person. Maybe being a contractor or freelancer is more suitable for those not social like me.

I work in child care, where I am the only guy amongst 11 to 12 women. Believe me: I couldn't suck worse in this type of office politics. The gossip alone makes me not want to socialize at all, workwise or casually. I must say that I can talk to a few of my coworkers, but even then I have to pick and choose what I say. The fact that I am the only guy at my center means my coworkers are apprehensive in talking to me about anything. They don't talk to me like they do to each other for fear I may say something they may take offense over, and since my personality is pretty laid-back, I may make certain remarks that can be construed the wrong way.

Paying the Price for Not Playing

Not playing the game got me fired. I was an employee who minded her own business. I saw what no one did and heard what no one spoke. After 19 years of service, they decided to fire me using the excuse that I wasn't up to par with the rest of the people. That's what I got.

After two months of employment, I was approached by the owner, who told me I would be a perfect fit for an open supervisor position. I accepted the challenge and kept a clean record, worked extremely long hours and had no problems, complaints or written warnings of any kind until this year. In another meeting with the company owner, I was instructed to change the way I interacted with my sales rep. I assured him I was doing my best to work with this person, who is difficult, and I would resolve any differences.

Two weeks passed, and my relationship with my sales rep improved dramatically. Last week, I was called into a conference room and discharged from my job. I was not given a chance to say anything -- just let go without being able to defend myself and without any support. I truly loved what I did and believed I would be employed with this company until the day I retired. I did not kiss the butt of the sales rep. I did not support nor would I kiss the butt of my newly appointed manager. I believe that is the reason I was let go. It is very sad to think I gave 110 percent of myself to this job, but because I didn't play by their rules, they found a petty reason to get rid of me.

What Do They Have That I Don't?

I worked for a mortgage company for two years, never missing a day of work and always making my customers happy. Then interest rates went down, and there were layoffs. I was chosen to be let go. Those remaining were Angela, who was 21, wore a size four and had long, flowing blonde hair, and Lois, who was hired because she was a friend of the supervisor at the secondary pricing department. I knew I was let go because I was not friends with the boss or sexy and young. I am 43, wear a size eight and have wrinkles, but I am healthy and intelligent otherwise -- just not sexy and gorgeous. I felt that the men in the office treated Angela and Lois better than me, because I was not young or sexy or a friend of the boss. They often missed work, and I never did. The men appreciated Mary, who always made food at work using her own money and resources. I didn't have a lot of money for things like that. I want to be appreciated for my brains, not my looks or cooking skills, unless of course I work as a cook in a restaurant. I decided to try something other than office work, because I want people at work to like me because I work hard and am good at my job, not because I brownnose or am sexy or young.

After eight years of employment for one of the largest corporate dental manufacturing companies in North America, I was fired! My boss told me I was fired because another employee overheard me saying something sexual about another employee being promoted through the company. Well, I never said it. I was never questioned about the incident -- just escorted out the door. I did not play the political game. The girl who supposedly overheard me and reported me is the same girl I reported to human resources one month prior to my being fired. She was constantly late, took extended lunches, allowed to attend fancy sales banquets, etc. We were both hourly employees, and if I could not do that after eight dedicated years of employment, I was not about to let someone else get away with it after only six months. She set me up after I reported her, and they fired me.

She got away with everything because of her looks, and she was 15 years younger. Everyone would stare at her and let her get away with murder. I found out a month after I was gone that she was pregnant and living with the corporate comptroller -- another reason to get rid of me, because it was against company policy to date and live together, but apparently not for them. Several years ago, I met my husband at the same company. We bought a house together and I got pregnant, and when they found out, they fired my husband immediately. The story sounds similar, but it seems like certain rules are for certain people. It certainly was the worst place I ever worked.

Office Politics Tips from the Masters

I do very well playing the game. The secret to staying ahead of the games as a telecommuter is simple:

  • Do not respond to any gossip emails from subordinates or peers. Pick up the phone so there is no paper trail.

  • Respond to your bosses' emails by being noncommittal, or ask for clarification -- copy their boss in the reply.

  • Do not send any emails you would not be happy for the whole world to read several times.

I am managing a lot better than I used to. I have learned disciplines that give me the ability to work in the corporate office environment. Principles that help me stay afloat are:

  • Remember who I am and don't look for others to validate me.

  • Taking care of myself -- getting enough rest, etc. -- gives me a jump start before coming into the office.

  • Hold on to my inner joy/peace -- give it up for no one!

  • Respect everyone -- no matter if you like them or not.

  • Do not participate in gossip and take sides in cliques (remain neutral).

  • Remember: I am a professional, hired to do a job and remain professional and courteous, regardless of how others behave.

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