Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

How To Think Less About Work and More About Life

Chapter 10: The People-First Life Part 14

Have I convinced you that there is something to this Corporate Idolatry thing? Maybe or maybe not, but in either case, I hope you see the world a little differently.

The first time I presented the outline for Busting Your Corporate Idol, the writing class was split. Some people thought it was an amazing idea that spoke to them. Others were viscerally upset, arguing that the book attacked the basic work ethic, and was anti-corporation. It took me only ten minutes to present the outline; we discussed the idea for forty-five minutes.

That class was a safe place to talk. I hope you can find a safe place to re-examine who you are and what is most important to you. An outside perspective can really help. If you play your cards right, you can get your company to pay for an executive coach, for “professional development.” Once you are behind closed doors, you can ask the coach to help you get your life back into balance. Coaches tell me this is very common.

Maybe you want to change, but are afraid to start. The first step is the hardest, so let me give you some help. Say to yourself  out loud “My company will no longer be my idol. I’m going to start putting people first.” And thereafter, begin each day thinking or saying “I am the kind of person who puts people first.” You’ll start to see the world differently, and you’ll start to make different decisions.

This may seem hokey, but if you really want to change, what do you have to lose?  Does it seem scary to pull back from work? That is understandable too. You may also feel like you are the only one who has doubts about the corporate life. Believe me, you are not alone.

There is a secret army of people who are starting to speak out, and starting to make changes.

What do you think about Corporate Idolatry? Please comment below, and then click through to read the conclusion to the book in the next post.

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Office Politics for the Non-Political

Chapter 9: Paint Your Environment Part 17 (conclusion)

In the last post, I embedded a video in which Harvard Business Review authors Kent Lineback and Linda Hill champion the cause of using politics for good purposes. I know that politics is like kryptonite to many people, in part because politics can be so illogical, unethical, or just plain mean.  But there are ways to play politics without catching an ethical disease.

Politics is about building a network of people you can count on, people who work together for common cause and for mutual benefit.  Lineback and Hill argue that people who don’t play politics associate mainly with friends at work, and therefore have less access to information and allies. In fact, without allies you won’t be able to defend yourself (or your team) from decisions that may compromise your values.

Lineback and Hill wrote a series of great tips for building a network in their HBR article “Stop Avoiding Office Politics.”  Here are two that I particularly like:

  • “Work with others for mutual advantage, not just your own.”  I would add that mutual advantage also means there is something in the exchange for you too. Doing favors for someone without expecting anything in return at work is not a way to build a network, it is the way to become a doormat.
  • “Build ongoing, productive relationships with everyone you need to do your work, as well as those who need you, not just those you like.”  This means that you may need to work with scumbags, assholes, eggheads, or airheads that you normally would prefer to avoid. 

“Dealing with Office Politics” on Mindtools.com gives an excellent overview of the how’s and why’s of office politics. I particularly like the advice for dealing with what I call the Foxes, “people out for themselves and not the common good.” Mindtools suggests that you “Get to know these people better and be courteous to them, but always be very careful what you say to them.”

One person I interviewed used this strategy to good effect. “My conversations with (The Fox) were always transactional – I never mentioned anything personal, because I was concerned it could be used against me.”

If you are like me, someone who isn’t a natural politician, beginning to engage may seem a bit daunting.  My suggestion: First try just one new thing. Little by little, you will start to acquire some chits that can help you shape your environment, and give you more choices.

In the last and final chapter, we’ll explore what life looks life after you’ve busted your corporate idol.

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