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Surviving Office Politics

Navigating the halls of bureaucracy requires strategy and the occasional sacrifice.

December 22, 2010  |  by Amaury Murgado - Also by this author

So there is jewel number one…sometimes you have to make it someone else's idea to get it done. Leadership involves sacrifice and leaving your ego at home. Who cares who gets credit as long as the agency benefits? Remember, a career bureaucrat never lets the facts get in the way of his or her decision-making.

Don't Push

Good ideas still might not fly. Again, don't take it personally. To put it bluntly, some decisions are not yours to make. You may not know all the factors or variables involved in the process. When I was younger I didn't understand this. I used to argue my position passionately and try to push my ideas through anyway. People fall into two camps; they are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

By presenting your idea you are automatically part of the solution. Whether or not your idea gets accepted is beyond your control, but keep trying to be part of the solution. I learned jewel number two at great personal cost; it's better to present than push.

Just because your proposal is denied doesn't mean its dead. Instead, think of it as being postponed. Resubmit it later when conditions are more favorable. Try using the following as a guide while pitching your idea or working on a project (it will help keep you sane). Present your idea once in person, then allow for one follow-up phone call and one e-mail. Once you have done these three things, learn this mantra: "If it's not important to you, it's not important to me."

I remember being given a task to set up a date for someone to attend a function. I tried to set the date in person, made a phone call, and later sent an e-mail, all to no avail. The timeframe for the function passed and a short while later I received a phone call from a bubble person as to the status of the function. I informed him the original date had passed because no one had ever gotten back to me.

While being entertained with some highly energized language, I reminded the person on the other end of the phone that I had asked about confirming a date in person, called him, and sent an e-mail, all in an effort to nail down a date for him. The conversation ended rather abruptly when I respectfully said, "Sir, if it's not important to you, then it's not important to me." It ruffled his feathers but I had done my job. Which is jewel number two: Do your job and the worst thing that can happen to you is that you upset someone. However, if you don't do your job, you might not have one.

Expect Selective Memory

This leads to common practice among politicos; bureaucratic brain spasm (BBS). BBS is a convenient temporary loss of memory. My third jewel is that when dealing with BBS, document your actions. Consider documentation as helping to deal with BBS just like ginkgo biloba helps deal with memory; it helps refresh it.

You will find that when the heat is on, career bureaucrats say things like, "I don't remember saying that, doing that, or you sending me that." My detective colleagues say these are examples of non-answers. Not remembering doesn't mean it didn't happen. In the career bureaucrat's mind, suffering from BBS helps minimize liability and is therefore used as a deflection and redirection tactic.

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