Archive for the 'Office Politics' Category

That Goldman Sachs Letter, Revenge or public service?

Greg Smith isn’t the first person to write an article about their past employer that is less than flattering and he won’t be the last. As a Goldman Sachs executive director
and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in
Europe, the Middle East and Africa he’s bound to be listened to and will cause more than a few intakes of breath in Goldman Sachs offices.

What Greg said in New York Times
The firm changed the way it thought about
leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and
doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and
are not currently an axe murderer) you will be promoted into a position
of influence.

What are three quick ways to become a leader?
a) Execute on the firm’s
“axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in
the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because
they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit.
b) “Hunt
Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are
sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring
the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like
selling my clients a product that is wrong for them.
c) Find yourself
sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque
product with a three-letter acronym.

Disgruntled or upset
It’s obvious that Greg is leaving Goldman Sachs a very disgruntled individual. Upset at how he’s been treated or genuinely upset at how customers are treated. Whatever the reason some will support him and others will be “appalled”.

Badly managed exit
Whatever you think of Greg and whether you agree with his point of view or not one can only assume that Goldman Sachs have mishandled his exit from the business. Here you have a senior executive that has potential to harm the business.

In my experience there will have been warning signs and these should have been picked up at an early stage.
Generally these include internal conflict, poor management of the individual, inappropriate blame, confusion over change programme, change in leadership that results in the individual being sidelined, change in corporate direction or values.


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Why do people find conflict difficult?

I’ve spent time working with a company where there is some conflict over strategy. Senior managers are arguing over strategy and each side writs off the others as being obnoxious and unreasonable. In reality the each side is making the other angry because people aren’t getting their way.

Right or wrong recipe
Over the past twelve years I’ve dealt with conflict within teams and between teams, conflict with subordinates and the boss so often that I know that the recipe is less a matter of right or wrong ingredients and much more likely to be a clash of styles seasoned with a pinch of insensitivity and a couple of drops of emotion.

The first thing I try to get people to understand is that conflict, in itself, is not always bad. A business where everyone agrees with the management and each other has a natural barrier created for its own potential and growth and possibly a poor culture if employees are afraid of reprisals when making challenges.

Ten keys to dealing with conflict
There are lots of systems to understanding and handling conflict such as the Drama Triangle developed by Dr Stephen Karpman in 1968 but my ten keys which I discussed with the combatants are these:

  1. Listen to what’s being said. Be logical and observe body language as well the words
  2. How important is this on a scale of 1-10. If it’s unimportant why argue?
  3. Make efforts to understand the other persons position
  4. Empathise with the other person’s argument and ask what the other person expects to happen and what the results will be for them
  5. Avoid emotion
  6. Clarify or set boundaries for behaviour and outcomes. This can be done by asking all parties to write down the boundaries and expectations, roles and outcomes.
  7. Ask the other party to explore issues and alternatives (Use facts) and use open ended questions, “How would that…” “what would be the effect if…”
  8. Don’t attack the person. Attack the issues
  9. Say something positive about the person. This has the effect of often defusing emotions and says that you aren’t attacking the other’s character and that you have respect for them
  10. Ask if my approach is appropriate and effective and be prepared to change tack if the conflict continues

How do you deal with conflict?

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Managing Office Politics and Conflict

Recently I’ve been asked “How do I cope with office politics” from a number of executives who are finding that arguments over strategy are becoming more common during the financial difficulties. They have been asking me for some tactics for managing conflict.

In this video I talk about some of the reasons that conflict occurs between colleagues and sobordinates and look at some of the tactics that cen be used to manage it. It’s a small, but essential, part of my executive mentoring programme and also a topic visited in my new conference keynote “You’re Here…But How To Get There?”

Surviving Office Politics + Conflict

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Maria is licking her wounds

After having to reverse her decision to cancel lunch for part time staff (see previous post) Maria is defending herself to anyone that will listen and complaining about being made to “look stupid by the CEO”.

What is interesting is that the incident is viewed as being mildly amusing by most people, who attach no blame to herself, but as Maria continues to defend herself for the error she’s seen as alienating the CEO. The consequences of this are that those people who would normally support her are gravitating towards the CEO. Perhaps others are detecting that support for Maria from the CEO is beginning to fade?

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Maria askes her team for a quick win!

Maria called her team to a meeting and informed them that the CEO and FD have asked her to find a quick result that would provide a financial saving.

Her team went away and after some discussion between them have suggested that substantial savings could be made by withdrawing free canteen lunches from part-time staff. It was estimated that savings could amount to over £12,000 pa. This was considered an excellent idea and free meals for part time staff were withdrawn.

That night, last Thursday, the CEO returned home to find that his wife, who works part-time in the accounts department, and children were eating but that there was no meal for him. On enquiring why he was told by his wife, “you’re not feeding me at lunch so I’m not feeding you at night”.

Maria has been asked to replace the free meal allowance for all part-time staff. Naturally, she is a bit agrieved at this loss of face and is blaming her team for the suggestion.

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Maria makes more staff redundant

Maria, together with the Sales Director, has visited the sales team in Exeter to close the local office. The rationale is that the office is not profitable and this is true and from a strategic point of view a good strategy for the company.

She did spend some time with each member of the team in Exeter to explain their options and to offer outsourcing advice. She also provided a list of vacant positions in the company but as these were all based in Manchester (the other side of the country) it was not viewed as being entirely helpful, which in fairness was not entirely her fault!

It has been noticed by other people within the company that she is intent on pleasing the new Sales Director at the expense of other alliances such as the CEO and COO. Indeed the Sales Director is adept at playing office politics and is understood to see himself as having far more “business ability” than his other executive Directors. He has actually been heard to say that it is only a matter of time before the CEO will “have to go!”.

I wonder if Maria is pinning her colours to the Sales Director’s mast too early?

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Maria battles with snow and issues an edict

Maria has battled into work for the first time this week as a result of the inclement weather and has immediately sent an email to all staff stating that any time taken off as a result of the snow must be made up within a four week period.

As she had a difficult journey into work Maria has just left work to return home and has pointedly stated to those in her team that all this last week she has been “working from home”.

Her team have concluded that she meant that her email will not apply to her.

I am detecting that Maria’s reputation amongst her team and some other key influence centres (people) within the company is not entirely positive. Indeed Maria is considered by some to be somewhat opportunistic and self-serving. (One person has suggested that being self-serving in most departments is acceptable it’s unfortunate for someone in HR. An interesting observation!)

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Office gossip about Maria

It’s being reported that Maria has been saying to senior colleagues that her team aren’t as good as she first thought.
There’s nothing specific except that she doesn’t like her deputy, Christine.

Christine is liked throughout the company as being very professional, hard working and thorough.

It is reported that Maria has mentioned to the CEO that she would like to recruit her assistant manager from her previous company. 

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Is an internal network vital for job success?

How important is an internal network of contacts for job success?

In your opinion, what type of contacts would be most important to success?

  • Decision makers?
  • Those with influence?
  • Those that the boss listens to?
  • Those that have technical ability?
  • others?
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How do “Office Politics” impact on success?

How important is understanding office politics to success?

What types of actions are acceptable and what types of actions unacceptable, or is it all fair in love and war?

Where can you learn how to “play the game”?

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