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Office politics

James Winburn -- There are people in the workplace who have office politics down to an art. These smart shmoozers have no qualms on kissing up to the boss. They accept the notion that their boss holds the key to a promising future and their workplace livelihood.

Working hard at licking the boots of their superiors is a job in itself, they'll admit to you. It's simply a matter of kissing the hand that feeds you -- the very hand that may help you build your child's college fund.

Jim Krouse, a sales representative, said to curry the favor of your boss is part of everyone's career track. The point, he said, is to be smart about it. "Like it or not, office politics are here to stay," Krouse said. "Wherever there are people vying for attention, promotion, greater compensation, there will be politics."

Who's Your Daddy?

Office politics can be serious play in the workplace. What better way to make your commitment and loyalty known to your boss than to illustrate it through occasional flattery, insincere praise, and gratuitous groveling.

"If you refuse to play the game," warns Krouse, "you might be seen as a troublemaker, or hard to work with. The trick is to play to win, and not sell your soul in the process."

Bootlickers Make Better Workers?

Keith F. Luscher, author of Don't Wait Until You Graduate! (New Horizon Press), says kissing up is definitely important, but you must make it work for you by looking at the needs of your boss and your organization.

"Don't just follow the routine," he says. "Look at the missions of the organization, the interests of the people you're working with. And look for opportunities where you can serve those needs, which may go above and beyond what your function would be."

Unless you are the CEO of your own business, you will always answer to someone serving over you. Even a CEO must answer to his shareholders, and shareholders to their bosses. It's a vicious bootlicking circle, but it's part of the big scheme of things to get ahead in any business.

Schmoozing for a Bruising

Others still perceive kissing up in the office as a display of personal weakness. They refuse to perform beyond their job description, or go out of their way to impress the boss.

"No way. I don't kiss up," says Gloria Vinesce, a customer service representative. "I don't play office politics. I see it as playing games."

In the not-too-unlikely scenario of Vinesce having to run errands for her boss, be they questionable in nature, she said she would refuse.

"I'd tell my boss that I was hired for customer service work and not to run personal errands," Vinesce said. "I would have a problem with anyone who expected me to run errands outside my job description."

And when it comes right down to the whole idea of schmoozing in the office, Vinesce said, "I don't respect those who kiss up to their boss. It conditions the boss to expect kiss-up behavior from those who work for them."

Some consider office politics just another way of maneuvering their career through the demanding challenges of a delicate, yet complex social structure of the office, while others feel it's outrageous and just plain out of the question. Whether you're a player or not, you have to accept that it is part of the working environment, and you have to know where to draw the line.

James Winburn spent five years in the U.S. Navy before going to work for local newspapers. Working from the CareerBuilder offices in Los Angeles, he is now part of their writing and editorial staff.

(c) 2002

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