How to Recognize 7 Personality Types in Office Politics
Do you feel like you’re going crazy at work? Up is down? Left is right? Day is night? Chances are you’re in a sick system. Welcome to the wonderful world of office politics–there’s never been a better time to telecommute.
It’s a jungle out there and the big cats are forever sharpening their claws. Even if you make a conscious effort to stay out of the fray, it’s almost impossible not to be sucked into the vortex of people scrambling for power, favor, or recognition. Office politics are typically the most vicious when there’s very little to fight over in terms of money and glory.
There are some basic office politics personality types that can be found in most work settings. It’s helpful to be forewarned, if not forearmed.
1) The Ego Monster. They’re right. They’re always right. They’re the smartest person in the room. Their ideas are the best and the only ones that count. These are the folks that pay the most lip service to “teamwork” (i.e., do what I say or suffer the consequences).
2) The Bully. They use verbal and intellectual (if they’re capable of it) intimidation. They openly belittle others’ ideas, work, dress, speech, etc., (with the exception of their immediate supervisor(s) and/or boss). They only feel good about themselves when putting others down. Be careful if you choose to confront the bully. They become quite malicious and vindictive when someone tries to unmask them.
3) The Climber. They have to be on top. It doesn’t really matter if the top is a glory-less position. If there’s a rung above them, they’re going to climb it. They usually ascend by using the daggers they plunge in people’s backsides as rappelling instruments.
4) Mr./Ms. Good Intentions. They’re a variation of the Climber, but disguise their agenda with “the best of intentions.” They smile as they sharpen their oyster knives–right before plunging them into your back while patting you on the shoulder.
5) The Pilot Fish. They’re the shameless suck-ups. They suckle at the power teat, hoping to avoid attacks from the Bully and Climber, while currying favor with the Ego Monster.
6) Harry/Harriet Half-Ass. Incompetent? You bet. Sloppy? Yup. Colleagues forever push the elephant broom behind them. They’re the masters of Dump & Run. They submit incomplete tasks and/or non-usable projects. “I know you wanted time codes for Project Video, but I co-created a company tee-shirt instead.” Huh? They’re continuously reassigned to different departments to “help out,” when, ironically and inevitably, they create more work instead of lightening the load.
7) The Innocent Bystander. You can never stay entirely out of the fray, not really. Even working from home doesn’t make you immune. The best you can hope for is a reasonably grounded leader who creates an environment of trickle down sanity (rather than trickle down INSANITY).
There are many reasons office politics exist, including:
- Re-creating family of origin roles.
- Feeling undermined at home and compensating at work.
- Adult bullies in the grown-up playground.
- Power hunger.
Whatever the reason, it makes for a thoroughly unpleasant workplace.
The crazy thing is, 20 years from now, none of the things we rage and plot over matters. Ultimately, the workplace one-upmanship in which we engage to bolster ourselves against life’s petty indignities is silly. Can’t we all just get on with it?
by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
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