If you fear workplace rejection and career sabotage, you are probably asking for it, according to Canadian research
“People who worry about workplace rejection or sabotage can end up bringing it upon themselves, according to University of British Columbia research,” reads the headline. Pretty serious stuff, especially coming from Canadians who are generally recognised to be the world’s nicest people. What they’re saying on a superficial level is that if you tour the workplace asking if people hate you, you’re very likely to encourage people to do exactly that even if they only found you mildly irritating before.
Despite organisations spending huge budgets on culture change programmes specifically designed to encourage nurturing, supportive behaviour valuing everyone’s unique contribution, it’s still a nest of vipers out there. The difference is that people will now sabotage your career in a supportive, nurturing way which values your contribution, whereas in the good old days they would have thrown your typewriter out of the window.
Office politics were about networking long before the advent of social media. Facebook, however, is different from the real world in that there isn’t a “can’t stand” button. That would certainly spice the whole thing up. Sadly this button is in constant use in the workplace. Studies from less reputable sources than the University of British Columbia (me) have shown that half of all meetings and three-quarters of all business lunches are taken up with the identification, dissection and annihilation of co-workers.
Office workers who worry about workplace rejection generally don’t have a grip on how to operate in the workplace. The first and golden rule is that if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone then it’s best not to say anything at all. That’s what email and instant messaging are for. The modern office gives you the ability to gossip about someone who is sitting between you. The second and equally important rule is that if you’re not a big hit outside the office you’re not going to be one inside. The one exception to that rule is if you can fix computers.
Everybody in the office needs to know how to deal with the patterns of informal communication, ie gossip, and the rule here is that you’ve got to be in it to win it. Unless you have multiple contacts and regular interaction (in other words going to the pub with your workmates), you’re likely to be outside the undercurrents of information that make every company tick. Do you really think big strategic decisions are made for the long-term interests of shareholders? Dream on. They are much more likely to be the result of monster egos clashing on the board. Can’t get the A3 paper you’ve ordered from the office manager? It’s not because of an inefficient procurement process, it’s because you failed to listen to Mike boring you rigid about lindy hop dancing.
Office paranoiacs misread these basic facts of office life as being a huge conspiracy to thwart them in anything they want to do, from developing a new IT strategy to getting a new mouse mat. The truth is that people don’t hate you until one of two things happens. Firstly, you show that you already hate yourself and that others are welcome to jump on the bandwagon. This is what normally happens with office paranoiacs.
Or, and this will change your life and promotion prospects dramatically, you show very quickly how much you like other people. Give Mike half an hour on lindy hop and he and his stationery cupboard are yours for life. Let the chief executive know that he or she has beautiful children and you can sit comfortably on the board. Unless, of course, these key people secretly think everyone hates them, and then you and the rest of the company are in big trouble.