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• You discover that one of your best employees didn’t graduate from college as she claimed in her job application.
• You know that a product you sell doesn’t do everything your company claims it does.
Every day we our faced with all sorts of ethical choices on the job. Here are six keys to making better ethical choices in your own work life (ETHICS):
1. Evaluate circumstances through the appropriate filters (e.g., culture, laws, policies, circumstances, relationships, politics, perception, emotions, values, bias, and religion).
2. Treat people and issues fairly within the established boundaries. Fair doesn’t always mean equal.
3. Hesitate before making critical decisions.
5. Create an environment of consistency for yourself and your working group.
6. Seek counsel when there is any doubt (but from those who are honest and whom you respect).
How political is your office or place of work? If you’re like most managers, you can likely relate more than one or two stories of business associates who have had their careers trashed by being on the wrong end of a political maneuver by someone in their organizations. No matter how much you might try to prevent it, when your organization has two or more employees, you can be sure that office politics are going to be a part of the equation.
The Management Bible
Ask Bob and Peter: How would you deal with a copartner in the company who's been backstabbing me in front of other employees?
The first thing we would do is confront her with her behavior—have you talked to her about this yet? Don't beat around the bush. Give her specific incidents, dates, names, and so on. Tell her in no uncertain terms that you will not tolerate the behavior. Business is built on relationships. Relationships are built on respect and trust. There is no way that you can trust someone who does not respect you. Your copartner clearly does not. Clearing the air gives you both a chance to repair and rebuild your relationship from which you both can benefit.
While the term office politics might have a negative connotation to many workers, the fact is that office politics are generally a very positive force in an organization. Office politics—the nature of the relationships that you develop with your coworkers—are the basis for getting things done. However, at their worst, office politics can degenerate in a nasty, competitive, and self-serving mess.
Before you dive into the political waters in your office, make sure that you keep your head above water by assessing your organization’s political environment.
Assessing Your Organization's Political Environment
Before jumping into any potentially dangerous or volatile situation, it’s always best to first assess what’s going on—preferably at a distance first, before you get too close up. Here are some ways to do just that:
• Find out how others who seem to be effective get things done. Effective people have already figured out the lay of the land, they know how the organization’s political machine works, and how to
get things done within it. Model your behavior (or at least take lots of notes) after people who are particularly effective at getting tasks done in your organization’s political environment.
• Observe how others are rewarded for the jobs they do. Who gets rewarded in your organization, when, and for what reasons? Is credit given to the entire project team that made something good happen, or does only the manager get his or her picture in the company newsletter? How your company rewards behavior tells you exactly what behavior is expected of employees in your organization.
• Ask questions. One of the best ways to assess your organization’s political environment is simply to ask your coworkers how things work. It’s amazing what you can learn if you ask the right questions (and swear yourself to secrecy).
• Observe how others are disciplined for the jobs they do. Do managers in your organization criticize employees in public or in front of their coworkers? Are all employees held accountable for decisions, actions, and mistakes, or just the employees who are not well liked by management? Observe and then act. If your management does not encourage risk taking, for example, you might want to avoid engaging in behavior that might be considered risky.
• Consider how formal the people in the organization are. Is your organization casual or formal? Are employees encouraged to act and dress casually, and to focus on behavior rather than appearance, or are they encouraged to be buttoned down on the job? Gauging the formality will help you understand how you need to act to conform to the expectations of others.
IDENTIFYING KEY PLAYERS
Key players are the politically astute individuals who make things happen in an organization, and it’s a good idea to get to know them and perhaps even to become their trusted ally and friend. But keep in mind that, sometimes, influential people don’t hold influential positions.