Office Politics, Part 2: What’s your Status?

your statusAfter discussing the basic properties of Office Politics and the importance of gossiping correctly in order to succeed at it, I would like to discuss the concept of Social Status.

If gossip is one of the main tools of Office Politics, status is its main currency, being lost or acquired through different actions and interactions. For some people, the goal is to achieve maximum level of status, however if you’ve ever heard about Peter Principle, you may consider achieving optimal status instead. This means that instead of wasting your time and energy on reaching and then sustaining an infinitely high status, you may find a much more comfortable niche where you would feel respected and appreciated at a much more affordable cost.

Let’s find out how it’s done.

A price to pay

Basically, status equals respect. At workplace you would like to be respected by everyone you encounter: employees, bosses, clients, stakeholders from other departments and the support guys. Loosing people’s respect may well mean a complete disruption of the working process: your employees don’t follow your directions, your boss allows himself or herself to engage in emotional outbursts towards you, your clients bug you with unending complaints and even threats, other stakeholders ignore your mails and your department’s equipment becomes the last item on technical support priority list.

This is the price you pay if you insist on abstaining from “political games” on possible pretenses that “our work will speak for us better than any tricks” or “I don’t care about such things as status”. Basically, saying that you don’t care about status is the same as stating that you should not be working with people, because PEOPLE DO CARE ABOUT STATUS!

So let’s make it clear: increasing his or her own status and the status of the department is among the basic duties of a Manager! Luckily, there are many available options for those Managers that do remember their duties.

An interchangeable currency

As with any currency, there are many ways to gain and loose status. This actually means that you don’t necessarily have to compete with others at what they do to influence their status, but to concentrate on what you’re good at. Ultimately, everything that gets you more respect increases your status and vice versa.

There are many ways to have your status either increased or decreased, however several basic directions could be easily summarized. Look at the following table to get a basic idea:

Increases you status

Decreases your status

Being known as an expert

Trying to pose as an expert without being one

Knowing how to convince others in what you believe is right

Trying to be always right

Knowing how to get things done

Simulating a lot of activity in order to show that something is being done

Being a good negotiator by saying “Yes” and “No” when needed

Never saying “Yes” first

Being able to reach a decision, including a “decision to postpone a decision”

Looking for excuses to postpone a decision

Being ready to stand by your employees against an external agent

Openly preferring your own interests to that of your department

Keeping your professional attitude above personal sympathies

Being too informal

Successful completion of projects by your department

Lack of coordination and personal connections with other departments

Leading by example

Having recognizably double standards

Think about the Managers in your organization and try to assign them a value of “1” for every item in the left column and a value of “-1” for every item in the right column and then sum the numbers. This will get you and idea of their comparable status (getting a negative number will signify negative status and this may be the case for some managers).

What is most important to understand here, is that real status is not acquired by trampling others, but gaining and keeping the respect of people around you. You can achieve the first part (gaining respect) by following the items of the left column and the second part (maintaining respect) by not following the items of the second column.

Try it, I’m sure your slice of cake will increase significantly if you do it right 🙂

2 thoughts on “Office Politics, Part 2: What’s your Status?

  1. “Slice of cake” – nice! Status tends to be rewarded with budget, lack of status with budget cuts. You don’t have to like office politics to at least ‘keep up appearances’.

  2. Thanks for your comment 🙂
    That’s right! With status comes the access to resources, which is paramount to implementing successfully any project.

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