Office Politics: Practicing Honesty and Generosity
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“Cliques” within the office have a negative effect on an individual’s job performance and self-esteem. Just because you feel inadequate about your abilities doesn’t necessarily mean that you are depressed. Most researchers and psychologists give you a generalized definition of self-esteem or low self-esteem. For example, if you tend to discredit your accomplishments, a counselor will tell you that you have low self-esteem, which may lead to depression, but low self-esteem itself is not a direct equivalent with depression. I believe that everyone will often times feel inadequate about themselves in some form or fashion, and most people are able to hide their feeling of inadequacy very well. These feelings are normal. If you feel like that you don’t have any inadequacies, than you are fooling yourself.
Individuals with mild depression seldom seek help from a licensed professional, and they may often function well with or without medication - They may often wear a mast. However, these individuals are at risk for developing a major depression, and one simple issue can cause the individual develop some form of chronic low self-esteem that leads to depression. Remember, some people are very good at showing a good face and wearing a mask of smiles. People who are, for the most part, more emotionally stable have perfected this skill.
The Social Mask vs. Honesty
I too am guilty of using a mask to show my good face, even if I am having a bad day or just exhausted. Most employers considering “showing a good face” a good characteristic, but why? The employer feels that if you maintain a positive mask, you will be able to perform effectively in a stressful work environment. However, I believe that your mask will eventually crack. Can being generous offer a way out of just wearing your meaningless mask of smiles? In her article, Is Generosity the Key Reducing Stress?, the author uses an scientific study case study to conclude that very generous people are less likely to be stressed.
Would you achieve the same outcome if you applied a similar theory to the workplace? Could generosity in an office clique positively impact job performance? The first thing you will have to do is replace your meaningless mask with a real sense of generosity and an active interest in working as a team.
The worst thing that can decrease the moral in the office are cliques of frightened people who overcompensate for their negative self-image by verbally tearing other people down in order to develop their self-esteem and maintain a positive image of themselves when they go to bed at night. This is especially true in smaller offices. When you start a new job, always remember that you are the new person, and there is always a “queen bee” willing to do anything to stay on top. Before I continue, I have to discuss how office clicks affect job performance and self-esteem.
Members of office cliques will asess and observe the new employees from afar, especially if they are considered the elite employees within the organization - Their first glance may seem cool - As if to declare that they have ownership of the office territory. For illustrative purposes, we could consider that this “clique” of "primates" in suits must first determine if whether or not you are threat to their social order. The majority of people in the workforce only work enough to get a paycheck, so anyone who performs above average may be percieved to be a threat to their employment.
A period of "hazing" may manifest as an office clique using intimidation tactics such as excluding you from group conversations and office parties - And perhaps even making passive agressive remarks about how you look or what you have accomplished in your life. As a black minority, I have experienced many intimidation tactics, but have learned to not let it adversely affect my job performance. The most common intimidation tactic that I have encountered is a group of people who trying you make sound incompetent in front of your peers. Perhaps they are doing this consciously, but more than likely they are doing this subconsciously, as a way of protecting their social territory from a potential invasion.
The office “clique” may also be intimidated by people who are different or have a strong personality traits, a great sense of fashion, or a high performing work ethic. How you handle the group's hazing rituals will determine how you survive in a midst of office drama, because your response to situation can make you feel that you are able to develop strong and positive relationships or that you are working in a hostile work environment.
The best way to counter attack is to always be professional and graceful, no matter how you feel. In other words, kill people with kindness, and strive to help them relax and trust you. Do not let your personal life interfere with your professional life, and keep business relationships clearly defined as such - Dating in the office can be risky unless you really know what you are doing. While you are learning to build those positive relationships, never let the office click "see you sweat" - Project strength, confidence, and compassion wherever you go. The hazing ritual of office cliques serves as a challenge to your character, so don't take their behavior personally, even if they try to make it personal.
Find a way to practice compassion, help them to relax, develop trust for you, and continue to perform at the highest possible level - You may soon find that the office cliques that were once designed to haze you are now a group of friends and professional collegues.
- Heather Browning, MBA, BA
Wells, L. (n.d.), Is Generosity the Key Reducing Stress?. Retrieved February 1, 2015.