By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. My workplace is super political. Every day I go to work, I'm trying to figure out what is going on between people just to get my job done. I don't have much interest in psychology and leave work exhausted most days. Lately, I'm just ignoring politics, but now my boss says people think I'm "difficult." How can I get my workplace to change?
A. The workplace is all about psychology, whether you agree with politics or not. You can't stop your workplace from being heavily political. You can get the toolkit to navigate the interpersonal jungle.
The truth is that people who have psychology training (or a natural talent for psychology) often advance farther up the workplace food chain than people who are more talented. I can't tell you how many letters I get from outraged readers outlining stories about how their work keeps getting sidelined by emotional issues on the job.
If you want to get ahead, ideally you will bring a high degree of competency in your field of choice and a solid set of interpersonal tools with you. Even football players spend a solid amount of time in a huddle working out strategy about the game. If you don't spend at least that much time considering the politics of your workplace, you'll just get left out in favor of your more emotionally savvy coworkers.
The skills you want to cultivate to succeed at work include:
-Deep listening to both emotions and intellectual goals of others.
-Choosing being effective over being right or defending yourself.
-Putting a plan together where people get what they want when you're around.
-Focusing on brainstorming solutions, not going on blame hunts.
-Attacking problems at work, not your coworkers.
-Knowing yourself well enough to manage your emotions (therapy helps).
-Understanding your limits and setting effective boundaries.
Playing the game of politics at work can be quite fun and rewarding once you figure out the rules of the game. You also will find the three rules of any sport (practice, practice, practice) are essential. My clients tell me that when they first use any interpersonal tool I teach them, they just feel abnormal. I tell them to look around at the world and consider whether they want to be normal and ineffective or abnormal with a rich career and life.
We all have times at work when we feel like taking our toys and leaving the sandbox because reality is just not what we think it should be. But if we leave the game to boycott reality, reality doesn't change simply because we won't play. You'll have far better results by grieving for your version of an ideal workplace and then putting together a plan to work with the ways things are.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.
This column was printed in the March 13, 2011 - March 26, 2011 edition.