Dealing with Office Politics, and Then Being Thrown into the Middle of Them

I’ve known that office politics exist for a while now. I indirectly encountered them in my internships, learned about them in a few of my classes, and was acutely aware of them in my college job as I was working in the middle of an organizational restructuring which left my boss reporting up to two different managers… who hated each other. But there’s something very different about being aware of office politics and actually watching them in action.

Enter the large majority of my job responsibilities over the past month and a half.

When people ask what I do, I generally tell them I sit in meetings. And that’s completely accurate, because for the past month and a half or so that is what I’ve done. My company recently underwent a massive reorganization, and that means standing up a whole bunch of new processes. Since I got back from my business trip my job has mainly focused around designing, implementing, and socializing those processes.

Because aforementioned processes are kinda a big deal, most of my work is done through meetings, collaborating with people on other teams. And a lot of times, as tends to happen with large groups of people from varied backgrounds, there are disconnects in communication. Frequently these disconnects are minor, but about two weeks ago we stumbled into a communication disconnect so huge that it completely changed the scope of nearly everything I’d been working on. As you can imagine, this was not easy to resolve.

Managers quickly got involved, as they should, to try to straighten out the misunderstanding. And we had a nearly hour and a half meeting that started bad and got progressively worse until my manager, with a lot of persistence, was able to find some common ground. But oh boy was that meeting political. So political, in fact, that I mostly sat wide-eyed in awe for its entire duration and declined to speak a single word for fear or somehow igniting some flame I was unaware of. At the end of what I have dubbed Super Political Meeting 1, it was determined that we were going to need a Super Political Meeting 2. And that meeting was today.

There are four members of my team, plus my manager, who had enough background in the situation to attend this meeting. Yesterday afternoon my manager sent the four of us an email saying he was going to be on vacation today and asking us to cover his viewpoints for him. Of the four of us, one was at an offsite in DC, one had a doctor’s appointment, and one was scheduled to be at another event and had been on vacation for two weeks prior and therefore missed Super Political Meeting 1 and didn’t really have a good understanding of what was going on.

In other words, it ended up falling on me to represent my manager. In a Super Political Meeting. As a regular less-than-four-month-term employee, to a set of senior managers. Fortunately I did have a bit of back-up – another non-management employee who was acting as a delegate for her manager. So, you know. No pressure at all.

But don’t worry, this story has a happy ending! Although this meeting was still a bit political, the participants were much more willing to work together this time around than last time. And, with a little strategic use of some communication skills boyfriend and I have learned from our arguments, I (with a good amount of help) was able to safely guide the conversation to a reasonable compromise, without getting anyone too upset.

A resounding success! And it was even marginally less stressful (marginally) than I expected. So I’m totally prepared to be a manager now, right? 🙂

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