Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Radio and Office Politics

Office politics at a radio station can affect success or failure. Master it and chances for job security and advancement are excellent. Stations are a community of fragile egos and it takes time to understand co-workers. In a perfect world, people are judged on the merits of their work. Sorry, it does not work that way. It’s usually poor office politics and not ratings that cause firings. Test everyone that approaches and make sure his or her intentions are honorable. The keys are caution, patience, and time.

One of the best ways to explain office politics is to take a look at the antics of politicians and professional athletes. Their indiscretions become headline news. Private sector problems are usually confined to the place of business. Unfortunately, the sexual misconduct of public figures, is the only aspect of office politics that is ever openly documented. Here are some examples of poor workplace decisions:

In 1992 female staffers accused Senator Bob Packwood of assault, sexual harassment and sexual abuse. He was forced to resign from Congress under the Threat of expulsion.

There was the “ Petticoat Affair” that involved members of President Andrew Jackson’s cabinet. Allegedly, the husband of Washington D.C resident Margaret O’Neil committed suicide due to an affair she was having with Secretary of War, John Henry Eaton. She and Eaton married shortly after the husband’s demise. This caused quite a stir among some of the cabinet members and their wives. Eaton resigned.

Current Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had an extramarital affair with his Chief-of-Staff, Christine Beatty. He refuses to resign and is under indictment with eight felony counts. City council recently voted in favor of impeachment.

In 1976 House Representative Wayne Hays hired Elizabeth Ray to serve as a secretary on his staff. Later it was discovered that her only job was to be his mistress. She admitted to not having any clerical skills. He resigned from Congress.

Current San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom admitted to having an affair with his campaign manager’s wife in 2005. At the time of the tryst she was working in the Mayor’s office as his aid for City Commission appointments.

During Bill Clinton’s Presidency, he had a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The entire situation led to his impeachment. However, the congressional vote for removal fell short and he retained office.

Sports is not immune the problem either. In the early 70’s, New York Yankee Pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson swapped wives.

To be fair, some awkward office situations have been successful. Jeannie Buss is the Los Angeles Laker Executive Vice-President of Business Operations and the girlfriend of Laker Head Coach Phil Jackson. She is also the daughter of team owner Jerry Buss.

On a daily basis, co-workers consciously or unconsciously interrogate each other. These casual conversations can become the basis for gossip. Try to keep things close to the vest, and only tell people what you want them to know. Keep personal and business lives separate. Spreading gossip can be intentional or unintentional. The causes can be jealousy, misinterpretation, ignorance, miscommunication, deflection, or misdirection.

Jealousy: someone just does not like you
Misinterpretation: something said is taken out of context
Ignorance: for no particular reason spreads gossip
Miscommunication: misunderstanding of facts or an assumption without rechecking the original source
Deflection: attempts to keep the heat off themselves by trying to refocus others on someone else
Misdirection: purposely shades the facts to throw others off the track of truth.

In office politics, gossip grows and takes on a life of its own. It’s similar to the game where people sit in a circle and whisper a story to the person next to them until it travels back to the first person that initiated the game. Many of the facts will differ from the original story. Or, how about those fishing trip stories, where the three pound bass that got away is fifteen pounds by the time the story is told back home.
Exposure to office gossip is constant. Never repeat the statements of others or offer an opinion during informal chitchat sessions. Some use others as pawns to spread rumor and innuendo.
If one becomes the object of gossip, act dumb and never address it or change any behaviors towards others. Acting out of the ordinary will only give credence that the rumors are true.

Let work results be the sole source for judgement. Be a team player, stay focused, and friendly. Attend company parties and participate in spontaneous celebrations such as ratings parties. In either case, do not get drunk, and be careful not say anything that could cause future problems. Be on guard, even with those that can be trusted. Overheard off-color party jokes can turn into gossip and a political nightmare. Do not be paranoid, but use discretion. If accompanied by a spouse or friend to one of these functions, explain what not to say or do. Going to lunch or an occasional happy hour with co-workers is fine. But keep those defenses up. Be a compassionate listener and fight the urge to offer an opinion on work or a fellow employee. Smile and use a lot of noncommittal phrases like, "No kidding", "I hear you", "Really", "You think so", " I don’t know enough about that", "What do you think is going to happen?” "We’ll see", "Can you believe it?” etc., etc. Numerous things can be done to remain above it all and stay out of the fray. Department meetings are the place for work-related opinions. After a certain amount of time, a few actual friendships will develop. These bonding experiences will be special and probably last a lifetime. Cherish the reality and do not let it or others jeopardize personal goals. How can a true office friendship be recognized? Hopefully, after avoiding all the pitfalls, a sincere effort will be made by someone.

The percentages for successful office dating are not good. Such unions usually end badly. Be single and discrete if a decision is made to have a relationship with another single person at work. It is a tricky situation, and can be the basis for charges of favoritism and discrimination. Fight the temptation to allow personal feelings for the other person to cause conflict with co-workers. Never become defensive or offensive as a result of things said or done in the office towards the love interest in question. If the relationship does not work out, keep the breakup as discrete as the romance. One of the most uncomfortable situations is the breakup of romantically involved office personnel. It can lead to problems. The following is a true story:

Two single air personalities were openly dating each other at work. They broke-up and he became disconnected personally and professionally. Many staffers took sides and department meetings were tense. Lots of "He said-She said". Fortunately, she left for a position at another Broadcast Company. Unfortunately, he attempted to date her replacement, and in doing so, revealed in private that her predecessor made more money. She immediately wanted a meeting and informed management that he had shared the monetary information, and she tried to renegotiate her agreement The incident was a mess, and the only good thing that came out of it, was the fact that they too broke-up.

However, there was another inter-office romance between two single people that resulted in a 15-year marriage and two children. So, nothing is impossible

Office romance between married people married to other people is a disaster waiting to happen. Regular cloak and dagger stuff. There have been many stories of such liaisons ending up in spousal screaming matches in office lobbies. Events such as these could cause others to take their eyes off office productivity and such meandering results in political complications and loss of jobs.

Extramarital affairs outside the office should be kept away from work. Never involve fellow workers by bringing a new love interest to a company function. Obviously, there are co-workers that know the unsuspecting spouse and or children. There is no reason to expose others to a potential domestic dispute or put them in the middle of something that could wind-up in divorce court. This sort of thing is always poor office politics.

Request line regulars become confessionals for some jocks. Therefore, never share station business, personal problems, or opinions about co-workers. However, there are times when these regular callers can be used to pass on misinformation to other stations or to complement a fellow jock. There have actually been situations where upcoming promotions have fallen into the hands of the competition due to a request line conversation. These phone regulars are groupies that love to talk to air personalities and will talk to anyone or any station. They mean no harm, but can unknowingly be dangerous or helpful. Just be a compassionate listener, and occasionally pump them for information about the competitor. Conquer the office political world and experience a smoother work environment.

Here are 10 Things To Help Survive Office Politics:

Establish a good relationship with your supervisor
Finish assignments on time
Do not gossip
Be a team player
Make learning a priority
Stay out of clicks
Make friends and relationships outside work
Do not be a complainer
Use the company computer for company business only
Do not let the phone distract you from work. Some personal calls are necessary, but do not let the workday resemble that of a telephone operator. Focus your energies on work.

Radio employees should approach the job like office temps. Smile, contribute, do not make unnecessary waves, and work with others. Learn to compromise, because the only thing that matters are results. Managers, make decisions. It is either “yes or no”. A “maybe” should come to a conclusion in a timely fashion. Non-managers follow directions and get clarification to complete assignments. Above all, one should always leave a supervisor in a defendable position. Let them know immediately if something goes wrong. They can then proactively analyze and find a solution to the problem. When it comes to office politics, treat others, the way you would like to be treated.

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