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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.

Tags: Best Practices, Patrol Morale


Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

Starrman69 @ 12/27/2010 5:13 AM

Good Info! When I started at a Sheriff's Office in '71, Michigan's statute on Sheriff's was the rule; "...The Sheriff may appoint one or more deputies to serve at his pleasure..." No union and it wasn't unusual for a new Sheriff coming into office to bring several new deputies with him. Covering Your Action was observed if you wanted to keep working. Even today, a LEO has to cover the bases. I kept copies of reports and memos. Now, with all the social networking going on one has to be mindful of what they post or how they comment on the Internet.

Reflecting back, it was a stressful job, both on the street and in the office. Especially as I was promoted.

Don, retired and happy in Poinciana

eadamson @ 12/27/2010 6:47 AM

The description of office politics is so true regardless of the agency. The one piece that truly sticks out to me as something that everyone should accept is "some decisions are not yours to make" and for alot of officers that is the hardest thing to realize.

One other piece that may not be directly related to office politics but is related is the issue of morale. Officers who do not agree with their supervisor, commander, or chief will often times just walk away after being told of a decision and just say "that is stupid" and trash the decision to their co-workers. This hurts morale and if we really want to help an agency we have to take our feelings off our shoulder and just deal with it. We all know that bad decisions are made by supervisors, command staff, and chief's but unless it is life threatening officers should accept it is their decision to make and then file it away as something you would do differently once you get to make decisions of that nature.

It is easy to simply argue that if something is wrong it is wrong but often times wrong is simply a matter of opinion. When I was a younger officer I dealt with admin who made some of the most bonehead decisions I had ever seen over the course of my career and when I reached a level that I could make decisions I thought it would be better. However, now I realize many decisions were simply the admins decision to make and not mine... It doesn't mean either one was actually right or wrong. I would have been much happier over the course of my career if I had simply realized that much earlier.

Great article for everyone to read and hopefully understand.

bcmc25 @ 12/27/2010 7:18 AM

Thank God for "2 wheels and one seat". I haven't met one office poge yet worth a spit. Why can't people just do their job?

sajjad ali @ 5/7/2012 6:54 AM

i think office politics is a worst thing which happens in organization from a long period

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