Author Topic: I suck at office politics  (Read 2904 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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I suck at office politics
« on: February 02, 2019, 01:24:50 PM »
Just discovered this place and I think you can help me out.

I'm 26F, fairly smart and ambitious and I don't do bullshit. I don't play games, in the sense that if I don't like something I'll tell you fair and square. Some people love me for that, some hate me. I'm very liked at my current company and considered one of the best employees. But occasionally I get in trouble with the higher ups because they don't want someone from underneath to challenge them. What happened recently is that I'm working on a pretty confidential project and it uses some data from a previous confidential project that I was involved in (and it's not exactly ethical). I assisted a meeting where the higher ups were like yes let's use that data, it's just for demo purposes, but I could feel people looking at each other in doubt. So here is where the fuck up begins: being the good honest worker that I am, and the one who owns the product, I send an email to the those involved in the discussion, asking for a simple written confirmation AND I cc'd the lawyer of our firm (we are a growing startup of about a 100). The lawyer then replies that in her opinion, what we are doing is not ok. So then one of the higher ups comes to me and is like 'I already told you you can go ahead, why are you opposing me' or some bullshit like this. My boss covered for me and said that I only had the best intentions but still, I feel like I fucked up pretty bad because I wanted transparency. Thank god I'm getting good experience and money, but definitely won't be staying at this place for very long.

I wish I could better navigate office politics and be more subtle about things..


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Re: I suck at office politics
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2019, 03:01:29 PM »
I also suck at office politics. No advice to give at all, but you're not alone!

Mr. Green

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Re: I suck at office politics
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2019, 03:06:07 PM »
A team of people wanted to be unethical and you chose not to go along with it. If being bad at office politics simply means choosing to be ethical then damn I got off easy in my line of work!


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: I suck at office politics
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2019, 03:07:57 PM »
You did the right thing. There will be times where no matter what you cannot win with everyone.

Cover your own ass first (or more politely, put your own oxygen mask on first).

It takes decades to build a good reputation, and one unethical decision to ruin one.


  • Stubble
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Re: I suck at office politics
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2019, 03:08:20 PM »
You should run from these types of office politics. Stay true to your values, you did the right thing.

mountain mustache

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Re: I suck at office politics
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2019, 03:11:09 PM »
I think you did absolutely the correct thing in that situation, it is exactly what I would have done. I quit a previous job with nothing new lined up because my boss wanted me to lie to a vendor. It seemed like a little thing, but I knew if I said yes to one lie, he would continue to ask me to do things that were dishonest and unethical. No job is ever worth compromising your values and honesty.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: I suck at office politics
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2019, 03:13:18 PM »
This isn't really politics, more like employee code of conduct or ethics.

The thing with law in corporations though, is they don't like emails from non-lawyer employees making assumptions about the legality of what they're doing, because it leaves a paper trail and admits guilt, and could be misconstrued as admission of guilt in a court even if the behavior was legal originally. As an employee you should just ask to speak in person (which you already did) and not make assumptions or admit something is wrong over email, that's pretty much the worst thing you can do in that situation.

So ask the legal question in person. If you're still unsure about proceeding, still no need to explain in detail by email.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: I suck at office politics
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2019, 03:32:54 PM »
That's not an office politics issue.

You disagree with the ethical judgements of the leadership of your current company. In the long term either you decide your ethics are less important than the paycheck or you decide the paycheck is less important than your ethics and find a different job (either voluntarily or involuntarily). You will likely not be able to force the ethical judgements of the people leading your current company to change to match your own.

Now if you weren't able to predict the consequences of cc'ing a company lawyer in an e-mail to your boss's boss, then yes, you may also have some limitations with modeling the thought processes of other humans and that's a good skill to try to develop. A good rule of thumb is that going over someone's head is never going to make that person happy with you. In this case, your bosses boss said "redundant6939, please do X" and instead of telling him fair and square "I don't think this is ethical" or "I'm not comfortable doing this unless we get our lawyer to sign off on it" you waiting (from his perspective) "told on him" to company lawyer so she could turn tell him that he made a bad/illegal call in front of everyone else on the e-mail thread, so now he feels like he lost face in front of his peers and subordinates AND that his authority was circumvented. (Edit: and as gerardc points out, there can be things where the company wouldn't culpable if it acted in ignorance, but once you have an electronic paper trail asking "hey is what we're doing illegal? should we check with the lawyers?" it now becomes a much bigger problem, so there is a culture of having any discussions about legal issues in person or over the phone.)

Now he's a bad guy proposing unethical things, and you were right and he was wrong. But until and unless you're ready to leave the job he's got some degree of power over you, so its important to be able to have a mental model of how he's likely to react to your actions. With office politics, as with all politics, it's good to keep in mind what Machiavelli said about doing your enemies small injuries.*

*Don't do your enemies small injuries because they'll extract a larger revenge on you in return. Either let things slide, or go after them with enough force that they won't have any opportunity to get back at you later (I'm paraphrasing).
« Last Edit: February 02, 2019, 05:52:37 PM by maizeman »


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Re: I suck at office politics
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2019, 03:38:33 PM »
You did the right thing, protected your own ass and the company's. There won't likely be any retribution either since you now have written documentation and you were in the right.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: I suck at office politics
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2019, 04:54:50 PM »
You knew what your intentions were by ccíing the lawyer. That was not the proper venue. If you didnít feel comfortable you should have been forward in a face to face discussion and mentioned running it by the lawyer. If they said no then you should have requested to back away from the project or leave altogether.

I made a call on a project recently and my employee didnít like it so he went to my boss. The employee was still wrong, and now he no longer works for the company (he was fired by our other boss, and that was one of the major contributing issues).

Iím not saying I wouldnít have done the same thing you did, because I have similar issues quite frequently in my career, however itís still not the best way to handle it. Those discussions are best done in person through the proper chain.

Papa bear

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Re: I suck at office politics
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2019, 06:59:40 PM »
While what you may have done is in your best interest, I wouldn’t categorize yourself as the face to face, tell you the truth, no bullshit, type employee.  It sounds like you let someone else fight your battles for you.  It was extremely passive aggressive.

Should have talked with your higher ups. Talked. Not emailed and copied half the world. 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


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Re: I suck at office politics
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2019, 07:58:58 PM »
It sounds like this would have been fine if you had gone to your boss in person.

Just donít write emails when youíre mad. It never turns out well.