3.11. Frequently Asked Questions
The following Frequently Asked Questions, answered by the author of this book, are designed to both measure your understanding of the concepts presented in this chapter and to assist you with real-life implementation of these concepts. To have your questions about this chapter answered by the author, browse to www.syngress.com/solutions and click on the "Ask the Author" form.
Q: I often find out important data after the fact. Any suggestions for getting more information sooner?
A: Withholding information can stem from one of two basic causes: someone forgot or someone purposely didn't tell you. We all can forget to share critical information from time to time, but most of us know when we see a pattern or when it seems intentional. In these cases, you might choose to talk to the person directly to let them know you're aware of the problem. We're assuming, for this problem, you do not have organizational power over the person (that is, you are not his or her boss or in their chain of command). By letting the person know you're aware of the withholding of information and politely confronting him or her, you provide the opportunity for him to explain, but you've also put him on notice. If the person continues this behavior, you may need to have the conversation in a more public setting, such as in a meeting with other key people present. Often people trying to gain power through withholding information will do so on the sly. If you call them on it in a meeting, especially if you've gotten hammered for not having the information, you can sometimes resolve these issues. The best approach is to be polite and direct, stick to the facts as you know them and be careful how you word things. Leaving the other person with some dignity is always your best bet and sometimes phrasing these inquiries as polite questions rather than accusations can yield better results.
Q: My manager is an executive with the company. She frequently has us pitch project ideas directly to her boss, the CEO. I always feel like I'm "talking out of school" when this happens. Any comment?
A: It seems your boss is comfortable with sharing power and is happy to let you loose with her bossthat's a real vote of confidence. Of course, because you do have the ear of her boss, you need to be cognizant of the political implications here. If her boss, the CEO, says to you after a presentation, "So, tell me, how do you like working for Lisa? Any problems?" you need to think before you speak. If there are problems, this is probably not the right time or place to air them. For instance, have you talked with your boss to try to resolve the problems? If not, mentioning them to her boss first will undermine her and will cause a serious trust problem between you two. If there are problems and you have talked with your boss about them, this is still probably not the best time or place to address these issues. Again, while the CEO may genuinely want information, he or she should understand that the question puts you in an untenable position. In this case, your best bet is to say as little as possible. If you are facing a serious, difficult problem with your boss and this is your one shot at taking it up with the CEO, you may choose to do so, but be aware that this path is fraught with peril.
Q: All this talk of politics makes me want to hide in the computer lab someplace. Can't we ever work in a non-political environment?
A: Yes and no. First, it's interesting to note that when a company's political environment is negative, it is considered political. When a company's political environment contributes to the greater good of the company, the employees, shareholders, and customers, it's not seen as political at all. Thus, when we say a company is highly political, we often mean that the more negative aspects are at the forefront. Companies vary widely in how political they are. Some companies frown upon the negative aspects of politics while others seem to thrive on power plays and intrigue. Often this behavior is encouraged, modeled, or at least blindly accepted at the top of the organization. If your organization is highly political, you really only have three choices: play along; ignore politics and just try to get your job done; or leave the company. Many people find the first choice unacceptable. However, ignoring the political environment puts you at a disadvantage. Your work will rarely, if ever, be judged solely upon its quality and content. The perception of the quality of your work will always be influenced by the political environment. You might get lucky, but if not, your overall work performance will likely be judged as adequate or mediocre if you're not participating in managing the political aspects of your job. You can always quit and look for a company that is not as political, but you're likely to find that every company has its own unique blend of politics and problems and you have to take the good with the bad. The good news is that you now know how to counter and defuse political moves to make them less effective in your world.
Q: I'm currently interviewing with several different companies for a new job. How can I tell if the organization is highly political or not?
A: When interviewing, you have the responsibility to do your own due diligence to make sure the job and the company are right for you. One way to view the political environment of the organization is to talk with people. Talk with the receptionist, talk with the person that interviews you, talk with people in the parking lot. Asking them if the organization is political is probably not going to yield meaningful information. Instead, using the knowledge you gained in this chapter, ask questions related to how people get things done in the company. Ask questions that will help you determine if people share or hoard information or resources. Ask questions that help you determine if organizational power is the primary method of getting things done. While you may not know for sure until you're well into your 90-day probationary period, you can often get a feel for things by seeing how open, honest, and forthcoming people appear to be, how negative or biting they might be about their peers or the company in general, and by how often they use words like team, we, share, flexible, cooperate, etc. and actually mean it. Every company has a unique personality and politics is part of the mix. Finding one that seems to suit your approach to work and life is your best bet. And remember, they're taking a risk on you as wellit's in everyone's best interest to make sure it's a good fit.