CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I don't like office politics, but in my company the boss' favorites always seem to receive the best assignments and get promoted. Should I think about moving companies? I can't believe that I have to play politics to get ahead when I know I do a great job.

Q: I don't like office politics, but in my company the boss' favorites always seem to receive the best assignments and get promoted. Should I think about moving companies? I can't believe that I have to play politics to get ahead when I know I do a great job.

Q: I don't like office politics, but in my company the boss' favorites always seem to receive the best assignments and get promoted. Should I think about moving companies? I can't believe that I have to play politics to get ahead when I know I do a great job.

Ms. B, Atlanta, GA



A: Hello?! Sucking up pays off. I am sorry to be the first person to tell you that, but it's true.

Office politics are very important. Doing your job is only part of your job, if you want to get ahead. Doing your personal PR throughout your organization makes sure that people know who you are and what good you do them.

Do this properly and you'll soon plug yourself into the circles you need to move into. Sad to say, you may think, but it's no different than the playground.

Bob Woodrum, managing director at headhunter Korn/ Ferry International, is a great believer in working the office like you'd work the room at a party.

'My first boss in the PR business told me my primary job was to get along with him,' he says. 'At the time, I thought that was a very egotistical view.

Now, some 30 years later, I have come to realize that what he was really saying was that I was there to assist and support him, be loyal to him and to make him look good in front of his boss. That is my definition of 'Sucking Up to the Boss.'

So there you have it, Ms. B. Get off your high horse, take your boss out for a drink (they'll be pleasantly surprised you're making the effort, believe me), and start to curry some of your own favors.



Q: I'll be interviewing for a job that sounds perfect, except I keep hearing horror stories about the company's culture. Are there subtle ways to probe that point in my interview?

Mr. R, Los Angeles, CA



A: The last thing you want is to work in an office with staff turnover faster than the griddle at Burger King. One of those places where there's such a chill in the air you have to wear an extra sweater. But how to know before you commit to trotting in there each morning?

Jean Allen, senior partner at Heidrick & Struggles, advises getting a quick read on culture by asking what the organization values in an individual.

'Good questions include: 'What kind of professional style and personality work best here?' or 'Tell me about one of your superstars and why he or she is so successful?' If the interview process moves forward, meet as many people as you can and ask them what they like best and least about the company. A picture will usually emerge.'

Don't worry too much about being subtle on this point. It's completely appropriate to share, in a concise and objective manner, what you've heard.

Remember, top traits employers look for in an executive are self-awareness and judgment. Determining if the work environment is right for you before joining is testament to both.

But a final word of caution. Remember that, in many cases, the manager interviewing you will actually be responsible for the tone of the office.

They may not take too kindly to your pointing out they've created a corporate environment with all the joy and spirit of Alcatraz.

Pandora regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence with readers, but is quite happy to dispense advice on this page. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.





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