Monday, August 06, 2007

August 6, 2007

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The following is an excerpt from my new book, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. The book offers considerable advice regarding how to manage our personal and professional lives. As a part of this, I found it necessary to discuss how to deal with office politics:

Sometimes it seems politics permeates every aspect of our lives, be it in government, our neighborhoods, our schools and places of worship, volunteer organizations, and our offices; something we simply cannot seem to escape. Because of this, we all seek a refuge from politics, a place where we can live in harmony and in peace, but this is very much like the search for the Holy Grail which ends time and again in futility and disappointment. Man is by nature a political animal; it is in our character. And perhaps this is natural as we strive by any means possible to not only survive but to improve our station in life.

Of all of our political institutions, none is as important to us individually as that which affects our professional livelihood. Office politics is based on human frailties, such as envy, jealousy, greed, indifference, and domination. Basically, it is driven by human ego. Interestingly, egos become more pronounced when the setting is designed to be competitive as opposed to cooperative. For example, in an environment promoting rugged individualism over teamwork, you will find more politics. On the other hand, teamwork tends to subdue politics as people are asked to put aside their petty differences and work together towards the common good. We see this in times of war, on our playing fields, and anywhere people are forced to depend on each other collectively.

Although teamwork offers considerable benefits, most companies establish a "dog-eat-dog" competitive environment where the first thing you learn is that fairness is sacrificed for personal gain. This means you should be nice and courteous to everyone, but do not trust a soul. As a new hire, you will not know the nature or depth of the office politics, so do not say anything derogatory about anyone or discuss any job assignment, even if you think they are a friend. It may come back to haunt you. This also means you should not rely on the support of others in a confrontation or fight; they will undoubtedly head for the hills when push comes to shove.

Next, you should learn the true boundaries of your job. Although this is typically defined by written job descriptions and organization charts, you will find there are also many unwritten rules you will be responsible for performing. I encourage you to seek out the total scope of your job, wherever it takes you. Don't worry about going too far as inevitably someone will slap your hand and tell you to stop as you are infringing on someone else's turf. Also be sure you understand the cast of characters you will be working with and their position on the totem pole (denoting administrative relationships; who reports to who).

Lines of Communications

Ever wonder why it seems the larger the company, the greater the politics? This is because communications plays a significant role, specifically the number of lines of communications to be maintained. Do you remember playing the game "Telephone" as children? This was where we whispered a message into one person's ear who passed it down through a chain of other people. By the time it reached the last person in the chain, the message was totally unlike how it was originally spoken. The same is true in interoffice communications where the number of lines of communications grow exponentially based on the number of people involved. For example:

of People
Lines of

The more people involved, the greater the chances of misinterpreting the message. It also demonstrates how rumors are created and flourish. This is not to suggest smaller companies are devoid of politics, only that it is minimal in comparison to a larger company who has many more lines of communications which are prone to misinterpretation.


Office politics requires tact, diplomacy, attention to etiquette, and a refinement of our socialization skills. More than anything, you should be cognizant that people act on perceptions, which may or may not be based on reality. Unlike our legal system, in most companies you are considered guilty until proven innocent (not the other way around). This means unless you have something to hide, keep accurate records and notes and correct people of any misinterpretations they may have, particularly as it relates to you.

Also because of human perceptions, understand the importance of cultivating a proper image, not just your physical appearance, but your professional image; e.g., ethics, workmanship, resourcefulness, determination, etc. If you are the type who likes to do nothing more than complain or whine, then people will perceive you as a counterproductive trouble maker. But if you offer constructive advice and readily offer assistance, people will perceive you as an invaluable asset to turn to. Like it or not, you will also be judged by who you associate with in the workplace. As in any society, cliques are formed which often leads to petty rivalries. Even worse, you may encounter powerful political machines with an agenda not in line with your own. Either join the machine or be careful not to get in its way and become a casualty.

"Political Correctness"

This is an expression I particularly dislike as I believe people have become more concerned with making the right political move as opposed to tending to their job. Yes, we should respect the rights of others, but not to the point of being cold and complacent. Yes, we should avoid offensive slang and choose our words carefully, but not to the point it affects communications. And Yes, we should observe proper protocol and decorum, but not to the point it creates bureaucracy and impedes progress. More important than political correctness is the need for simply developing a professional attitude about our work; that we are serious about it, we enjoy it, and we demonstrate our competency in executing it.

Political Fights

Pick your political fights carefully. I'm not suggesting you walk around with a chip on your shoulder or be timid and submissive either, but there is a time and place for drawing a line in the sand. Recognize early on you will not win all of your arguments or fights. Question yourself as to the necessity of getting into a fight at this point in your career and creating an adversarial relationship. But if your back is to the wall, do not pull your punch. To get your way, it may be necessary to form your own political machine. To illustrate, consider Abraham Lincoln's early political career. It would be incorrect to assume he was highly successful early on. In reality, he suffered several setbacks; he lost an incumbent election for Congress and two runs for the Senate. Each stung Lincoln sorely, but to his credit, he learned from his mistakes. As the election of 1860 approached, he got his political house in order and devised a successful campaign which included his own political machine. Not only were all of the Illinois delegates behind Lincoln, but he recruited political handlers who had run against him in past campaigns (and won). Although Lincoln viewed political machines as ugly and unsavory, it ultimately won him the nomination and, of course, the presidential election.

Depending on the outcome of a political fight, be humble in defeat and magnanimous in victory. Again using Lincoln as an example, after losing his first Senate race, he shocked everyone by appearing at the victory party of his opponent and offered a genuine hand of friendship and support. This did not go unnoticed and was well remembered by his opponent who fought for his candidacy years later.

Turn Opponents into Proponents

Lincoln was also a genius in his ability to turn opponents into proponents. After he won the 1860 presidential election and knowing his country was approaching a flash point in its unity, Lincoln reached out to his recently defeated opponents in the Republican race and appointed them as key members of his cabinet. All were somewhat surprised to be asked to serve, but Lincoln's magnanimity encouraged them to put the interests of the country's ahead of their own. These people became his closest confidants and trusted advisors during the dark days of the Civil War.

Another way to overcome an opponent is to simply outperform him/her, particularly if you have been given a dirty job to perform. Nothing irritates your opponents more than to see you succeed when you are expected to fail. It also improves your notoriety as someone who can succeed in the face of adversity.

However, if you have lost a particularly nasty political fight that has caused you personal or professional damage, your only recourse may be to file a lawsuit. Think twice before doing so as it is highly unlikely you will get any support from anyone and your chances for success will be slim. Your coworkers will be hesitant to speak up on your behalf, especially if it means jeopardizing their jobs. However, if you do find it necessary to go to court over something, make sure everything is well documented and discuss the matter with an attorney to see if you have a valid claim.


Gamesmanship is every bit as important as perseverance, honesty, and strong moral values, maybe more so depending on the political climate of your company. Office politics involves how we address the human ego through our socialization skills. Regardless of how pleasant and congenial your demeanor is, there will always be people looking to sabotage you if for no other reason than spite. Although we should always try to turn the other cheek and not lower ourselves to our antagonist's level, there will be times where it is necessary to confront and confound our opponents. Do it with dignity, and do it with class. Or as President Theodore Roosevelt said, "Walk softly and carry a big stick."

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is... "Nothing irritates your opponents more than to see you succeed when you are expected to fail."


Friends, as mentioned, we have just published a new book entitled, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. Reviewer Bill Petrey praised it by saying, "Every young person entering the workplace for the first time should be given a copy of this book." The book includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force. Corporate Human Resource departments will also find this book useful for setting new hires on the right track in their career. It not only reinforces the many formal rules as contained in corporate policy manuals, but also includes the subtle unwritten rules we must all observe while working with others. The book lists for $25 and can be ordered online through MBA or your local book store. Complementing the book is a one day seminar of the same name which can be purchased separately for $4,000.00 (U.S.) plus instructor travel expenses. For more information on both the book and the seminar, visit our corporate web site at:
ISBN: 978-0-9786182-5-4


Ever since the end of World War II, many Americans have sought the peace and tranquility of suburbia, a place where we can have our own homes as opposed to urban apartments; a place where we can raise a family in friendly and neighborly settings. Such is the dream; such is the myth. In reality, suburban neighborhoods have become places for high anxiety and paranoia as everyone watches what you do and turns you in to the authorities for any infraction of the rules. I like to call such people "Suburban Nazis" as they like to exert their will ruthlessly.

Down in my neck of the woods, and I suspect elsewhere in the country, we have three types of Suburban Nazis. First, we have the "Condo Commandos" which are generally retirees with nothing better to do than patrol the complex looking for any infringement, such as an unauthorized decoration or some minor alteration out of step with the condominium complex. Next we have the Homeowner Associations (HOA) who often employ management companies to perform the tasks the Board of Directors are too lazy to do themselves. Such management companies are often overzealous in performing their duties as they want to prove their worth to the Board. They generate a considerable amount of reports and form letters notifying residents of infringements guaranteed to irritate residents. And if they do not respond, it is turned over to the Gestapo (the attorneys for the HOA) who like nothing better than to goose-step you to court.

Here in Florida we also have the "Water Nazis" who are employed by the government to patrol neighborhoods for violations of water restrictions. One time I received a violation notification for watering my lawn on the wrong day. As it turned out, it was my next door neighbor watering his lawn next to my house. The Water Nazi found it easier to write me up as opposed to checking it out more closely. Of course I tried to refute the violation only to get lost in the Water Nazi's voice mail jail. I left a pretty terse message on the machine which, fortunately, led to them finally dropping the violation.

I've been a Past President of a HOA myself and understand the need for maintaining the appearance of a community. What I have a problem with is the coldness of how we enforce the rules. In most cases you are guilty until proven innocent. I also have a problem with the paper trail they create. Instead of calling you on the telephone, you are issued an impersonal form letter. During my day on the Board, we first tried to call or visit the homeowner to talk to them. I found that most people are embarrassed by the violation and promptly take care of it. A little friendly human contact goes a lot further than a cold form letter, but this is not how we handle things anymore.

Anytime I see a situation where the Homeowner or Condo Association doesn't openly communicate with the neighborhood, or comes forward with an accurate accounting of their finances or activities (such as published in minutes), an unhealthy situation inevitably ensues and the community loses faith in the Board of Directors. But then again, few people volunteer to serve on such Board of Directors, mostly because they see it as a thankless and futile effort (a kind of "You can't fight City Hall" type of phenomenon). Consequently, the Board of Directors typically consists of people who have some time on their hands, but do not have a clue as to how to run such an Association. Even worse is when participation on the Board is used as a means to settle an old score with a neighbor. I guess what troubles me most though is that Suburban Nazis are turning neighborhoods into concentration camps.

Yes, I love the peace and tranquility of suburbia, and the sound of jackboots in the Spring.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


Folks, a couple of years ago I started to include my "Pet Peeve of the Week" in these "Management Visions" podcasts. They have become so popular that I now syndicate them through the Internet and they are available for republication in other media. To this end, I have created a separate web page for my writings which you can find at Look for the section, "The Bryce is Right!" Hope you enjoy them.


I received quite a few responses from my "Pet Peeve" regarding "Doctors' Offices":

In O.W. in Minnesota wrote:

"We have, as a society, deemed special privilege to those who treat us in the medical field. We are to blame for their lack of respect, but really Tim, it is MONEY that drives them to schedule more people than they can see in 15 minute blocks. Since they are all fully employed, i.e., they limit their numbers so there are more patients than doctors, they don't have to care."

A S.M. in D.C. wrote:

"If you have a bad experience at a medical provider's office, make sure you let your health insurance carrier know. Talk to someone in their provider department and follow your phone conversation with a letter. This letter will be read, passed around management, imaged and permanently stored with that provider's records. If enough complaints are received about a provider by members (customers) the carrier WILL drop the provider.

Don't put up with crummy service - speak with your money and your feet!"

And finally, an N.K. in Florida, who is in the medical field, writes:

"There is a perfectly good explanation for the inability of doctors to keep schedules, and that is people are NOT machines. They do not follow any rules when they break down. There is no "sure" way to fix an ailment that does not fall into a certain category in the first place. Then there is the problem of multiple problems when the patient is scheduled for only ONE problem because they did not tell the schedule person the "real" problem. I guarantee you that if you show me a doctor who runs ON TIME, I will show you a doctor who doesn't really care for the patient; one who wants to herd the patients in and out to get the most money for his time. It's like a good restaurant; we will wait in line for the best food or the best movie, but we won't wait in line for the best physician? What is wrong with THAT picture? It is easy to tell the business person, "I'm sorry but our meeting must come to an end now....we will discuss the other problems at our next session." But try telling that to a person who has just been diagnosed with life-ending cancer, or a husband whose wife just died in the ICU the night before, or a person who is depressed over her husband leaving her suddenly for a younger woman...... my list goes on and on. I work in this profession as a nurse practitioner and my husband is a physician. There is not a day that goes by that one of us did not have a patient who has had a heart breaking problem or event. More often than not the patient comes into the office with more than he "signed up for" and believe it or not, most of us ARE compassionate people who just are NOT able to turn from a serious problem with this comment, "I'm sorry...your time is up". If that were YOU in the office, you certainly would want your practitioner to spend that extra time with you!"

Thanks for your comments.

Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567. For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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Copyright © 2007 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."


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