Away from the humdrum of politics and news cluttering our newsfeeds, we do well to remember that on our tiny rock graduation season is well under way. Hundreds of newly minted graduates will soon be joining our workforce, after years of slogging it out in our venerable educational institutions. In an ideal world, we are all our own bosses and earning the daily crust is a breeze, but an ideal world this is not, and a new job is always inevitably a source of anxiety for most of us. It could be your very first, or perhaps you’re by now a veteran at this ‘new job’ lark, but whatever, it is still, frankly, excruciating. It is the kind of palm sweating, stomach clenching, nightmare inducing situation we can all identify with… First day on a new job and the scent of terror is emanating from your perspiring body in waves. Short of running out the door and never coming back, how do you navigate the minefield that is office politics? How do you land a new job and not suffer too much for it?
Frankly, walking into the dragon’s den (or what feels like it anyway) is rated among the most stress inducing experiences a human being can experience in his or her lifetime. If you happen to be one of the very lucky few who lands a job where the boss is a dead ringer for Santa Claus (including his benevolence) and your colleagues are on a par with his elves, then life’s all hunky dory; but sadly this is rarely if ever the case. In the real world the situation is a whole different kettle of fish and for most of us, our office life rivals only Parliament or a high-class brothel, as the home of scandal, gossip, backstabbing and vicious repartee.
Fast forward a couple of months into your new job and then it really all begins… Does the feeling of constantly being talked about behind your back, feel like the norm? Do you feel that somehow, you’re always involved in some kind of drama, that for some unspecified reason you get the niggling impression that your ideas/work ethic/projects are somewhat considered way below par? If you tick all the boxes, then hello! Wake up, smell the coffee for you as the new girl/boy are irrevocably flavour of the month, at least until fresh ‘prey’ walks through the door or somehow miraculously and against all odds you’re accepted as part of the office hierarchy.
But how do you manage to avoid being eaten alive by the office politicos? Apart from growing a very thick skin, adopting the mantra (which you can) ‘Trust no one’, is frankly an excruciatingly painful way to live, day in, day out, even if it is perhaps the savviest. It is virtually impossible to maintain this attitude in the closed confines of the workplace, because no matter how hard you try, there will come a time, not too far off, when you will have to approach a colleague or other and ask for assistance. It is only human nature to strive for acceptance, but do you in your eagerness to please become a doormat and concede to every ludicrous demand by your more senior colleagues? The answer is a definite no, unless you have intrinsic issues with masochism, or martyrdom is what you aspire for. The solution lies in finding a happy medium which usually works; simply be nice and kind. No one can be justified for being horrible to the new girl/boy when they’re so nice and affable, can they? Adopt the mantra ‘Do no harm, take no s***’ and you’re on to a good thing – earning respect without jeopardising your colleagues’ standing in the office’s pecking order, is the way to go.
Of course, some of life’s longest standing friendships are made at the office, but it’s no accident that usually these friendships are forged stronger the more atrocious the job/boss is. After all, solidarity thrives in misery and having a single objective, that of overcoming the enemy (the job/boss) makes great comrades of the most unlikely people. Making friends at the office can only be a good thing and creating a support network is what we should all aspire to but building a relationship on your mutual aversion of current circumstances will only lead to heartache, so always tread with caution. Ambition is a laudable virtue, but not at the expense of destroying the finely balanced dynamics of office relationships. Getting ahead is what we all aspire to but a spot of backstabbing here, the appropriation of someone else’s effort or ideas there, and before you know it you’ve sold your soul for the opportunity of getting promoted. No promotion or pay raise is worth the aggravation you must deal with because of your nonchalance.
The above might be a worst case scenario, but as they say ‘s*** happens’ and you might be dealt the dodgy hand in your ‘work’ cards, but once you get your head around the ruthless reality of office life and learn how to overcome the envy and the out-maneuvering, the rest is a doddle. Keep your head down, work hard and have faith… your day will come, patience is after all the very best virtue there is!