Office Politics - share your stories

Luckily, I work in a place where office politics are minimal. Of course, there are the occasional newbies who think they can get ahead by sucking up to the higher levels of management around here (soon, they figure out it doesn’t work, and tone it down). I suppose it’s because we’re a relatively small department, and the rapport between superiors and peons are generally good, we don’t have a lot of office politics going on - probably because there isn’t need for it.

I do recall working at a larger, more heartless corporation where if you don’t step on others to get ahead, then you are the one being stepped on. At least, that was the mentality around there; the mentality was one of the reasons I left as quick as I could, because I was doing admin assistant work and I was the messenger for the bulk of the snarking and back biting.

The actual incidence of office politics that pushed me to leave:

I was hired to help out one manager, but after being there for about four months, another admin assistant left; the company was too cheap to hire someone new, so they “re-directed” everything to me. I started doing admin assistant work for another manager who did not have the best reputation within the company. Gossip around the office indicated he had some sort of relationship with the CFO’s wife - brother-in-law or cousin or uncle or something like that. Distant enough relation not to raise any eyebrows with the higher-ups, but related enough for the peons to bitch and moan about how unfair it was.

Of course, no one would have complained if this guy wasn’t such an asshole. Actually, no one would have complained if this guy knew how to do his fucking job. When they asked me to do his admin work for him, they said it was temporary, and they agreed to increase my wage. I was so naive to think that it was going to be temporary, and that the increase in wage would make up for all the extra work I had to do. The new manager I was supposed to work with was extremely high maintenance - doing all the shit asshole bosses love to do to their assistants. One of such things that got me seething was that literally threw a large stack of papers onto my desk one day, demanded that I made fifteen copies for his meeting RIGHT away, as it was starting in half an hour. I was in the middle of working on something else for my original manager. Something that was more urgent, and had been requested with respect and in ample time for me to complete.

Dickhead manager would not take no for an answer, because god forbid he go and make the copies himself. I repeated myself, and also reminded him that I was hired to assist the original manager, and the work I was doing was priority. He grumbled, then he walked away. I showed him it was futile to get me to do things I didn’t want to do, so victory was on my side! I thought that was the end of it, but how young and naive I was back then. The next week, I find out that he had decided to re-locate my original manager to another department. It wasn’t so much that he had the power to relocate him, but he had family connections to people who did, so it was done for him. As far as I know, he didn’t care, or even knew who the other manager was. He wanted him gone, wanted me to work for him, and only him, so he found a way to make it happen. After figuring out from the original manager that his move was neither a promotion nor a demotion, and he had been given no choice in the move, it was obvious what dickhead’s motivation was. I searched for another job (during office hours and using office resources, so take that dickhead!), found another one within the week, and left as soon as they gave me an offer. Two weeks notice…? They can kiss my ass.

I got out of office politics way back… I don’t make much, but dogs and plants don’t get all weird and political on you!

Scary stuff, Sad and Deranged!

I work in a small office with mostly women. My immediate supervisor is the manager of my department. I have almost officially diagnosed her with Borderline Personality Disorder, but I’m no doctor so therefore can’t write her a script for Xanax for when she has her little meltdowns. Over the 3 years that I’ve been there has been many episodes of her crying, walking out, lashing out, insulting those of us that work directly under her, etc. When you walk in in the morning, you have to be very quiet and observe what kind of day she’s having before you say hi or start behaving normally. If it’s not a good day for her, keep your mouth shut and keep to yourself. Just yesterday she went off about something or other and walked around talking out loud to herself, telling herself that we were all stupid and idiots and she was going to kill herself. :rolleyes: Normal behavior for her.

And then we meet The Princess. She has the same job title as I. The Princess has been there for 7 years, since she was 18, and is, well, a Princess. She does whatever she wants, which usually includes holding the counter up, and standing there with her mouth open and her arms crossed. I have almost officially diagnosed her with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but I’m not a doctor so I can’t give her a script for, uh, whatever you give those people. One day, I have vowed, I’m going to count the number of times in one day that she says “I”, “me”, “my”, or “mine”. I bet it’s into the thousands. She talks, talks, talks, all day long, all about herself. Her gems include, “I would never live in a used house. For my whole life I only want to move into brand new houses. Living in a house where somebody else has been grosses me out,” and “I’m the best!” (She says that a lot.) She is spoiled, rude, loud-mouthed, ignorant, and opinionated (ignorant opinions, of course.) She has been in trouble many, many times over things so shocking that anyone else would’ve been fired. I will not go into it here because that may bring up legal issues, some of them are so bad. The office manager hates her, that is clear, but for some reason she stays on and probably always will- where else will she be treated like a Princess? Some of the offices I’ve worked in would have her running out sobbing the first day- this is the only place she can be like this, I’m sure.
The kicker is that the psycho supervisor and The Princess have an actual mother-daughter relationship, even though they are not related. They speak often, in front of the rest of us, about how close they are and how much they love each other and how The Princess is the daughter of the supervisor. I guess we know why The Princess is The Princess, huh? It really burns me up, because she treats the rest of us so incredibly shabbily- downright abusively, and then turns around and practically makes out verbally with that other one. It is without a doubt the most disturbing, unprofessional office relationship I have ever seen. It’s mind-boggling.

There is an established cycle with new hires- you come in and see how it is and you attempt to notify others of this gross injustice. Why is this one person allowed to do nothing while everyone else busts their asses, why does she get to call in sick all the time, leave early all the time, act like a total asshole, etc, etc? You see what’s going on, you don’t understand, you ask questions. Then you find out that this is the way it’s been for years, this is the way it’s going to be forever. You’re not the one that’s going to just come in and change things- this is how it is! You start planning your escape- “well fuck this, I’m not working here! I’m gonna find another job!” But then life goes on and you get sucked in to all the good things about the job, and you end up selling out and ack! accepting this screwed-up situation like it’s perfectly normal, and accepting that while you’re at work and now even sometimes when you’re at home, the verbal abuse the you get and the preferential treatment that The Princess gets have gotten you down, way down. Sigh.

If feels good to get that out.

This is just - mind boggling is the only thing I can think of. Truly - I can’t wrap my head around this!

Alice, it sounds like you need another job! This would make me insane!

Thanks for sharing… that is some pretty bad office politics. I don’t have anything against people making friends within the office - I’ve always be a little bit of an outcast, so while I remain friendly with the bulk of my co-workers, I’m not the type to join them for happy hour after work. I have my own friends that I get along with very well and I choose to associate with them, thankyouverymuch! I guess most of office alliances start out that way… then when people get to be friends, they see one friend get treated unfairly (or so they think) and start using whatever “powers” they have to change things under the table. Bugs the crap out of me, but it shit that happens! So, stories where assholes get their comeuppance pleases me greatly. :stuck_out_tongue:

My office politics (sort of) happened this past weekend.

I had a summer bbq party at my house this past weekend, and several of my colleagues were invited. (ok MOST of them were invited). The ones I invited were people I have lunch with, talk to on a daily basis, etc. Out of nine colleagues in my department, I invited six. Four were able to make it. On Tuesday, one of three that I didn’t invite (that I don’t have anything in common with, and other than general pleasantries, don’t really even talk to) came to my office and asked if we could talk in private. She then proceeded to ask me if I didn’t like her, and why wasn’t she invited, why did I invite everyone but her? etc .etc.

I told her I don’t like hurting anyones feelings, but that it wasn’t true that I invited everybody but her. I mean seriously what can you say in this situation? I told her that my wife and I agreed to each invite so many people, and there were people I wanted to invite but wasn’t able to.

This has me wound up again… I think I’m going to start a new thread on this.

To be fair, those are really pretty much the only bad parts about the job. Otherwise, it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I, personally, established limits with my psycho supervisor early and often, and now 3 years later, I don’t get too much shit from her. I feel fairly liked and respected- my nickname amongst the others is “The Golden Child”, so I’m not doing too badly. It still burns my britches to see The Princess being treated so radically differently, though, and I will be so happy to be away from the both of them the day that I quit (soon, soon!).

Some coworkers had a guy fired for doing his job too well. Clients loved him and flocked to him which meant he both made other employees look bad, and the other employees made less money. They ended up complaining so mercilessly that he was let go for a reason they could have let ANYBODY go.

I’m glad you are thinking of leaving soon, though. When someone truly does have BPD, it doesn’t take much for them to turn you from Golden Child into Village Idiot. It’s a very black-and-white world, oftentimes.

And this is one of the main reasons for management to remove certain people out of the workplace. What’s particularly toxic about them is that they can lower the morale of everyone there. What’s the point of working your butt off if good work isn’t rewarded and poor work corrected?

My department is generally free of this kind of stuff.

The assistant of someone at the highest levels at the University made me walk a piece of paper over to them last summer. I had sent electronic copies and there is no reason why it had to be walked over there, but they insisted on it. I walked the 2-3 blocks over there and the person wasn’t even there to receive it. I’m pretty sure this was some very weird kind of power play; we still laugh about it.

Recently my department agreed to pay for another office to add some analytic staff, which they had complained they sorely needed and couldn’t afford. They hired a researcher and my supervisor invited this new person to go out to lunch, to welcome her and get to know her since our office would be using a lot of her analysis. My supervisor got a nasty email from the director of that office asking that my supervisor not “call meetings” with her staff without (a) ccing the director and (b) providing an agenda. It was LUNCH! I think that director wants to establish that just becuse we’re paying that person, we cannot think we have any claim on her.

Oh, yeah, that sounds very familiar. The firm where I’ve worked for 11 years was bought out by an international company, so we’ve grown from 12 people to about 25,000 people, and the difference in culture is something to behold. Territory (or “reports,” as in those who report to you) is something to be guarded with Trojan-like vigilance. Hey, if you want to talk to Joe Blow, you need to talk to me, and I’ll tell him.

You’ve got to be very careful who you CC and who you don’t CC, and who you ask a question, or you could be giving someone information you’d really rather they not have. Or even worse, an ally might become an enemy because they think you’re trying to pull something behind their back. Hell, even how long you take to answer an e-mail can have political ramifications. “Sorry, I forgot” is treated with much suspicion.

I’m afraid I don’t have the political instinct it takes to rise much higher here. Somedays I’m afraid of saying anything to anybody. Just leave me alone and let me do my job.

My first job out of college was subcontracting for a major company who shall remain nameless–we’ll just call them the International Brotherhood of Morons. I was writing a course on Internet Marketing (yeah, I know, my soul shriveled a little every day). The course would be taught internally within the company.

Anyway, I and my teammates wrote the best damn course we could. It was in a Powerpoint-like format: slides, plus extensive notes for the students full of statistics and code and references, plus some notes for the lecturer describing possible questions the students might ask and how to answer them.

We worked on it for months, writing an excellent course, submitting it to the Brotherhood’s liaison regularly. They loved it.

Finally we’d completed the course, and it moved to the next higher level in the Brotherhood for approval.

They made some superficial changes–incorrectly inserting commas where commas shouldn’t go, that sort of thing. But they also told us to remove all the student notes, placing them in the teacher notes so the students couldn’t see them.

“Why?” we asked. “That’ll make the course much less useful for the students!”

They explained. Each student would get a copy of all the student notes. And with so much information in those student notes, somebody from a different department in the Brotherhood could take those notes back to their own department and use them to teach the course to others in the department–and the department that commissioned the writing of the course couldn’t bill them for that.

So we had to spend about a week going through all the documents, removing as much of the notes as we could and transferring them to a different place. I think it was another week before the steam stopped coming out of my ears.

The best part was when I saw the Brotherhood’s policy on fair use of documents. According to their internal policy, any other department could request our full course free of charge from the one that commissioned it.

That’s the worst politics I’ve ever seen in an office.

Of course, there was the time at a conference where I was woken up by hearing my boss gossip about me to another employee in the hotel room adjacent to mine, blaming me for her own atrocious screwup. I marched over there and reamed her out, and quit the job soon after.



My time at Itty Bitty Machines included using their lousy version of office running on OS/2. Can’t remember the presentation package’s name…

I’m afraid I don’t have the political instinct it takes to rise much higher here. Somedays I’m afraid of saying anything to anybody. Just leave me alone and let me do my job.

This is my experience at my job too. I work as an admin asst for a university. There are about 12 people in our suite of offices. Two of these people actively work together to undermine other employees in the office. Unfortunately, we have had a lot of turnover and they have a lot of knowledge that they try to parlay into power. It bothers me how well this has worked for them :dubious:. I have heard that they always have a scapegoat and it is usually the person in my position. Guess what? It is me. The problem is that they have influenced many other people against me as well :eek:.

I do not participate in office gossip (not because I am too good, which seems to be the unspoken consensus. It is because I learned my lesson at a previous job about the dangers of gossip and I just don’t want the temptation.). I try to keep my head down, be polite, and just go about my day, but I get tired of being treated like some sort of alien :confused:. It is hard to come to work each day when you are made to feel so outcast and, many times, incompetent.

But then, I remember that this is a good job with good benefits and I will stay until I can find an opportunity in the field I have decided to pursue. Somedays, I can feel people trying to edge me out of my position :dubious:. Unfortunately for them, I have permanent status and it would take an amazing amount to get me (or anyone else) fired. Besides, they wouldn’t have to live with the consequences of me quitting before I am ready, but I would. In five years, I don’t think I will even remember their names :cool:.

The really stupid thing about all of this is that the person in my position is responsible for a great deal and, if I were to leave all of a sudden, they would pretty much be screwed. No one else knows how to do this job and it generally takes two months to get a new person hired (and then a year to become proficient). I don’t understand how people can justify working so thoroughly against their own interests :smack:.

Even as a new hire, my position in the biggest corporate structure that I ever worked for is really high up the ladder. Spread over the county, I have 15 peers, one super and one director. She has the VP and CEO to answer to and I was specifically wooed away from my last job to fill this position.
This is why I was sort-of amused and those around me shocked that someone from another department was peeing in my Cheerios. Insisting on inter dept. meetings and being late. Controlling where people sat during meetings. Phone messages everywhere for me pertaining to the same message. Asking for reseach she could do herself. (“But I don’t have 3 assistants like you do.” My asisstants shouldn’t do her research. They don’t even do mine. I do my own.) Per policy, she can ask things of me but I can shut her dept. down with a phone call although I’d need a damn good reason. This remains a mystery and still almost amusing. She can’t benefit from my removal. She can’t be promoted to my position. I spent a couple of weeks wondering what her damage was and then delivered the cruelest blow. I ignore her. I attend those meeting I see fit to attend. I sit where I please and keep my assistants close to me. I send them to be me by proxy (policy says I can but almost nobody sends theirs—I did my research) What can she do?

PowerPoint-like, I said :). Yeah, it was their lame knockoff, a product that crashed all the time and corrupted your file when it crashed. If you were working on slide 8 in a presentation and it crashed, slides 1-7 would be fine, but if you ever tried to look at anything past slide 7, even to delete it, the program would crash again.

I eventually figured out what was causing the crashes (a certain way of linking pictures or something) and was able to work around it, but until I figured that out, I was having to save my files manually every ten minutes under a rotating series of names, so that if it crashed, I’d be able to go back to a previously-named and noncorrupted file.

God, I loved that job!


I’ve shared a lot of stories of my Labrynth of Kubikles days, but I’ll rant just a moment about academia:

I worked for 15 years in various entry-level to professional service industry capacities before working in academia. One of the biggest dichotomies among academics is those who worked in academia from their mid-20s or so and those who entered it later (i.e. those who had years of experience earning a living outside of academia before becoming academics).

The stereotype of academics as Ivory Tower residents is only true to the degree that any stereotype is true (i.e. you really do find Southerners with few teeth and a yard full of junk cars and you really do find black welfare moms who buy $400 sneakers for the kids and gays who have 50 sex partners a year and can name 20 shades of green, but these people aren’t indicative of their groups as a whole). For every professor I’ve known who really is so obsessed with Pompey the Great’s war against the Meditteranean pirates that he calls CNN trying to be interviewed 2 days after 9-11 to tell how relevant it is (actual example) there are several more who really do have some grounding in the real world. However, the more years they spent outside of academia is in general related to how well they handle office politics.

I’ve worked at 2 colleges where they literally brought in professional counsellors to help people cope with the stress from alleged harassment and insubordination and double-standards and intolerance and the like that stemmed from the office politics. In both cases I was speechless and asked aloud “Would somebody please tell me what I don’t know about what’s happened here?” and was told the exact situation again and then thought and said "That’s what I thought… Dudes! This is fucking NOTHING! You wanna see office politics? Go work in a cubicle farm when they bring in a new department VP is brought in and the asskissing hierarchy is cast asunder and must reform itself! Work in a struggling 3.5 star hotel where a new General Manager is brought in from Boston with some “new ideas” and a “there’s gonna be some changes” speech right off the bat and NOBODY is protected by yearly contracts or tenure. Shit, work in a theme restaurant or any frontline service business and you’ll hear bosses talk to their employees on a daily basis in words and manner that would get your ass fired before you can say ‘sexual harassment policy’ at ANY college even if he was tenured (cheaper to pay him an out-of-court terms-undisclosed settlement than risk lawsuit). Academic Office Politics are NOTHING compared to corporate politics, but what gripes me is that academics bitch and moan about more and handle/compartmentalist them less well than the less educated and often less intelligent people I knew in corporate environments, and the world’s worst are those who got their Ph.D.s in their 20s and have never worked at a job where knowledge of an esoteric subset of an already effete subject matter wasn’t a requirement. (I don’t like the distinction drawn between “academia” and the “real world” usually as every professor pays rent and income taxes and has to deal with violence in their kids schools or gasoline prices just like “real worlders”, but sometimes you understand where people get their ideas from even if you don’t agree with those ideas.)

The worst office politics I ever endured- the kind that make you sick to your stomach and already ill on Friday night at the thought of returning Monday morning- were when I had no job protection via tenure/contract and was making half of the middle class salary I make now. One of my biggest gripes about academia is that so many professors are like Little Theater Archetypes in terms of ego and self-involvement and “I See What I Believe” and so few have ever lived below the poverty line (I don’t count “poor student”-poverty, if only because the knowledge/faith is there that it’ll be over soon and it doesn’t equate to 'this is my real life" poverty) that they honestly don’t know how lucky they are or how much shit they’re missing from the cubicled ranks, where bosses routinely discriminate against the intelligent and there’s a profit incentive to get really nasty.