After Hours

Know your foes in office politics


I blogged recently about a company that conducted, along with IBM, a study that showed that online gamers develop leadership qualities--specifically strategic strengths--from the games they play.Online games aren't the only source of strategy education. The Art of War, the Chinese military treatise written by Sun Tzu in the 6th century B.C. (and praised as being the definitive guide to military strategy) has undergone a resurgence of late as it applies to business and managerial strategies.

I happened to be on the site BNET.com recently when I saw that one of their feature packages was how to excel at office politics. One of the parts of this feature was a "field guide" to the 10 most common political personality types most of us have to deal with in the workplace. Pretty funny stuff but I think that those types might differ a bit in the IT world. Here's an example from the ones BNET is running:

The MBA Characteristics: Speaks in acronyms and 50 cent words, backs up every statement with a tidbit gleaned from "The Journal." Sends daily status e-mails about every project. Quote: "Let's repurpose our I.M.N.A.S.S process to maximize our integrated solutions."

My challenge to you is to help me put together one for the personalities IT folks have to deal with. I'll go first.

The Marketing Guy Characteristics: Lives for three little words: search engine optimization. Would sell his own child for "Google love." Quote: After you rant for nearly an hour about how many hours and personnel it would take to make a web site "tweak" he wants, he smiles in a Stepford-ish way and says, "OK, well, let me know when it's done."

Got any office personality types to add?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

96 comments
jril9419
jril9419

Why is it that most corporate sociopaths find themselves heading up IT roles? A PhD is waiting for a psych student that can come up with the answer to this!

techrepublic
techrepublic

This has been studied. Asperger Syndrome afflicted people gravitate toward computer jobs in disproportionate numbers to other careers. These higher-level autistics have difficulty communicating on levels that most of us take for granted. The spillover effects judgment, decisions. It's not as pronounced in tech roles; these types of people do quite well there. But when in some organizations the techie automatically gets promoted to manager with little or no formal management training, it has been and will continue to be a recipe for disaster.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Never PI$$ off the little guy. This sociopath was literally taken out by his entire department.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

It's kind of like the union mentality without the union or the stupid dues and politics to go along with it. Whomever said that the system can't be fought or challenged has never tried.

jril9419
jril9419

I too have often "waited out" IT psycho managers but it gets very tiresome - especially during downturns and opportunities are scarce. It just seemed to me that IT departments and outsourcers seem to attract more than their fair share of, umm, unbalanced people.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Two directors, on buerau chief, one CIO, three managers, a county frehholder board and a CEO all taken out from below. I agree about fighting the system. The system has only one weapon in it's arsenal; buerocracy, and that can be beaten with patience and persistance every last time.

Bob Oso
Bob Oso

What about the "I want everyone to like me" computer guy? This guy is actually a combination of sorts. First he started off as an unholy offshoot of secret IT guy, in name only, and Army Supply guy. This character has learned how to do his computer stuff on his own over the years outside of the company/corporate environment. Building computers and such. Because he's used to doing this stuff for others, friends and people he wants to impress and usually on a small home network this type of character lacks scrupples or any morale fiber. Won't think twice about hacks or searches out hacks for everything under the sun. Won't pay for any legit piece of software. Hacks everything from operating systems, programs, movies and music. He becomes more dangerous when he comes to work for a company and is equipped with the personality trait of the classic TV supply Sgt that is willing to trade everything for anything to make things happen. This is dangerous in an office environment when you try to educate your customers and users to refrain from certain "questionable" behaviour and downloading certain types of programs on to company machines. Very difficult to combat because it's always so much cooler to be a geek bad boy than just a plain geek. Evident when you get to hear this person offer any one who will listen, "sure, I'll build you a complete machine (illegal)for a $100 bucks." or "you want the latest version of that program (hacked)?". Oh what joy it is to find certain types of programs on machines because the company insists on giving everyone "admin" rights because they are all grown ups and need to work independently or should be shown that they can be trusted. Oh and I almost forgot, this type usually is the first one to point out the pimple on everyone elses forehead to keep the attention off their lack lustre performance and output.

Top.Gun
Top.Gun

The person who really does know it all, and plays it for all it's worth. To put it as short as possible: it's the really intelligent person who thinks they can act like an @#+%#hole, and does. Nothing is done to them because some in management think they can't get along without them. No one is irreplaceable and management needs to reinforce this to everyone to try to bring people like this under control. They may be smart but, in most cases,they cause more trouble than they are worth.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Master of the office ninja technique of "let's you and him fight". is responsible for all the office back-biting and gossip, yet always seems to rise above it. favorite tactic: eavesdrop on private conversations, then spread confidential information. Will egg on injured party to go after "the only one who I told".

Victoria.Galante
Victoria.Galante

This guy or gal views every meeting as an opportunity rto attain Andy Warhol's elusive fifteen minutes of fame, and orally spams with superfluous, off-topic &/or impressive-if-irrelevant commentary.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I'm not implying all PMs' are clueless, but I have met one who didn't know a damned thing about IT and would find crafty new ways to bullsh*t his way through a meeting to sound as if he actually knew what he was talking about or actually did any work aside from annoying the engineers on staff.

Victoria.Galante
Victoria.Galante

The Performer: This guy or gal views every meeting an opportunity for Andy Warhol's elusive fifteen minutes of fame, orally spamming with superfluous, off-topic &/or impressive-if-irrelevant commentary.

LostAndFound3
LostAndFound3

I have 2 as well: 1. "Former Thinks He Knows it all--now manager" This breed is extremely wiley, and claims to be knowledgeable on everything you are doing now. Reason: he did the same job 8 years ago that you are doing now. He totally forgets time passes and things changes. The technologies and practices that he has not employed in so long, are now relics. Yet, he knows better than your, regardless of all the recent training you take to keep up with existing trends. This same breed relies on you to bail his a** out of hot water, but then turns on you like a pit bull. Complements your skill in front of others, while tearing you a new one in private because you disagree with him. He is two-faced and must not be trusted. He violates most company policies (and occasional in fraction of the law), and says you do not know what you are talking about (after you show him the policy and references thereto). Uses company training on behavioral patterns to categorize and classify individuals in a group. With this knowledge he applies mind games to have the group work against each other, rather than with each other. His chief weapons are chaos, hysteria, and fear. This is the only way he can get what he wants--very diabolical. 2. The mini-"Former Thinks He Knows it all--now manager" The toadie "Former Thinks He Knows it all--now manager." He is a parrot, and a spy. Carries out the tasks of ensuring things go to the plan made by "Former Thinks He Knows it all--now manager." Usually takes the guise of a team lead, or senior technical specialists. Gets rewarded with a promotion to the two pay grades for his loyalty. All the while this guy couldn't do the same job of a competent individual at his level.

rector49ok
rector49ok

To put men on equal ground with the cute, provocative chicks, we need our own holidays and dress styles: How about "Speedo Day", "Cut-Off T-Shirt Day" to show our hairy bellies, or "Plumber's Butt Day"? I think a new clothing line for men to show some skin, the "Hint of Nut" collection would help us get equality with the low cut blouse and short skirt girlies who seem to be perpetually cold...

sam8988378
sam8988378

but if "hairy bellies" is any indication, O the Horror. Personally, it wouldn't be bad to have some male eye candy (someone who could wear a sleeveless T would be nice).

brasstown2
brasstown2

Pet Peeve = Person who steals others ideas and uses them to promote themselves. The next thing. If you are working for a small company and the original (sucessfull) owners sells out and the new management installs lawyers and accountants to run the company it is time to jump ship. If you work for a company like that your loyalty should only extend to the next payday. Been there and seen it happen.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Earlier on in my IT career, I took a job at a a small direct marketing firm and was the sole IT support guy for over 200 people. I did everything from repairing the PCs', building and managing servers, to terminating ethernet cable to the patch panels and monitoring the PBX call monitoring system. Anyhow, the CEO of the company decided to hire his longtime buddy, a scumbag short little weasel of a lawyer, to be the new COO. Needless to say, this fellow, who I dubbed "Mr. Napoleon complex", felt that I needed to be micromanaged, as if I didn't have enough bullcrap to deal with from screaming telemarketers and other morons who made my daily workday a living hell. Needless to say, this new COO had some personal vendetta against me and was always trying to muscle his way into what I was doing. After a year of working my ass off there, I approached this COO for a salary increase and was promptly shown the door by the HR dept. The COO decided to replace me with one of his buddies, who was not even remotely qualified to do 1/4 of what I accomplished in a day. A few weeks after my termination, I happened to run into an old coworker who left the company and had stated that since the new guy started tinkering on the system, they have had nothing but daily crashes, system outages, and work interruptions. He predicted that most if not all of the marketing staff will jump ship because they can't get their jobs done and will be booted for not producing enough. Anyhow, I was glad to see that some executive's idiotic decision to replace a skilled person with one of their unqualified buddies has led to the company's own undoing. In business, you never replace a good worker with a relative or friend who knows nothing about the position being served up to them on a platter.

burnite
burnite

For my last contract I was the guy who replaced the "friend of the CIO" it amazes me when I do some simple task and I get the "Wow that was fast" or "The last guy said that it would take two weeks" After hustling for a couple of months things went back to normal.

lmherrick
lmherrick

Mr. Promise When you tell him it can't be done in [insert totally unreasonable deadline here], he blusters and blows that the client has been PROMISED that turn around time. When you point out that it was he who did the promising, and remind him for the millionth time that he needs to consult IT before making commitments, he storms out to go complain to whomever he thinks will force it down your throat. This is the same guy who will leave early to catch nine holes the day before the deadline, leaving you and your team to work feverishly through the night to deliver on his promise.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Mr. "you're the IT guy, you should be able to do this." Completely clueless and cant understand why the C++ programmer can't do some quick networking for him..

Tell It Like I See It
Tell It Like I See It

Beancounter This person cannot understand anything except numbers. To them, numbers ARE reality. Woe be to anyone who wants to spend any money, as this might interfere with achieving the beancounter's profit. And even worse is trying to hire some much-needed help because hiring said help would upset the FTE ratio.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Overstates the difficulty, not only of every project, but of every task assigned to him, in pursuit of accolades.

djl4fzw
djl4fzw

I discovered a while back, that though they tend to come off as negitive, they're actually quite loyal and looking out for you, the team, the project, and the company. They can anticipate interactions of things further down the road. It tends to be a perception and a social skills issue. The key is discovering what they anticipate as 'a' (not 'the') problem. Many times there are more than one. People tend to shut them down just before that point. Given the right coaching, opportunities, and patience, they may become a great asset to the team. They just might save you a ton of time, money, and effort!

Tig2
Tig2

Several days, and a raft of other things. If you are bringing a real issue to the table, I am all ears. if you are bringing product bias, I have no time. I think that my mopers have something to contribute. But when it is just whining that their fav product wasn't selected... and they were a part of the selection team... I cannot value their input. We may embark on new technology and need to grow new skillsets. Get over it. The company makes strategic choices without regard to an individual's preference. The functional strategy of the corporate, and wise dollars spent, should be our focus.

Absolutely
Absolutely

... for the most reward. You have alluded to their method. Anybody can "anticipate things down the road" as well as these lazy sacks of dead weight, and [u]if we weren't busy carrying their dead weight[/u], the alert, attentive, industrious people would notice the same things, first. No, the Moper does not have any value, but thanks for looking for the silver lining. That's a good quality in a person.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Be everybody's friend, and never have to do a lick of your own work!

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

The Cute Chick Regardless that the network is down, the payroll hasn't been processed for three days and the disaster recovery, well, doesn't recover ... She walks in with long legs, short skirt and a mouse that no longer works. She gets all the 4 nerdy boys in the IT dept jumping out of their pocket protectors to help her sort out her problem. And, despite the fact that the mouse simply wasn't plugged in properly, the nerdy boys take three hours to sort out her issue. (As a result, the only person in our department that I allow to call IT is the cute chick. We get bumped to the head of the cue every time. And, even though every time they come around she is magically sitting at a different desk and a different PC, they either haven't got it or just don't seem to mind at all. Corruption works on so many levels. :) )

formisc
formisc

god, i wish for a cutie like that - at least smth beautiful walking around. Bot a dick running and trying to boss you to report that because of great him blah-blah got done to next in the food chain.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I cannot understand what you were trying to say.

sam8988378
sam8988378

Works wonders for supplies, requisitions, etc, too. ;)

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I recall the days I was a desktop support guy and spent my days crawling on my hands and knees in dust and filth under desks. Needless to say, I recall one incident that forever changed my perspective on IT and desktop support. I got a call from a frantic secretary (CEO's mistress, as it was well known he was cheating on his wife) because she was on an important phone call with a client and her PC had lost connectivity to the network. I come into her office and asked her to kindly step away from the desk so I can work down there, but she told me that she couldn't step away and I'd have to work under the desk with her sitting there. The problem was a faulty RJ-45 jack and was causing loss of connectivity to the LAN. Needless to say, here I am working with punchdown tools under her desk with a clear view of her hooha, as she was the kind to not wear undergarments at times. I maintained a professional composure and tried not to let it bother me, but it would have been more professional and appropriate for her to have worked at a different desk while I did the work. I guess me being under her desk with her sitting there didn't bother her at all, but had someone walked in and saw me poking around down there with her sitting at the desk, I'd have much explaining to do to HR.

peacjen
peacjen

You're "The Cute IT Chick" Do you know how many times I have to leave the IT Dept cause guys' office bar magically disappear or all the problems have to do with the hard drive that I so happen to have to crawl on the floor to get to? I swear they were doing it on purpose. I think the guys in the IT dept were in on it too cause I always get those jobs... Let's say... I'm glad I'm not in help desk support anymmore

JamesRL
JamesRL

At an earlier employer, I watched a young woman get harassed out of the job by some young male techs. I had a talk with the outsource provider. Things did change. James

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

in IT. I think it has to do with social norms and the idea that "IT is a guy's profession". Also, many women I talk to are afraid of going into IT because they feel they will be abused and harrased as if they are surrounded by a bunch of immature high school boys. Yes, sexual harrasment laws are in place to stop such things, but the reality is that women will be picked upon and subjected to needless and improper behavior as the "ole boys club" mentality rules in the workplace.

JamesRL
JamesRL

against good looking women, or any women or any men. I need work done in my department. Thats the bottom line. Way back when I started in IT in the 80s, a new person was hired in at my level. She was a very sexually open and avilable type person. Unfortunately she was lazy and spent all of her time flirting and none working. I ended up picking up the slack - not happy. James

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I'm sick of looking at dorky looking dudes with oversized glasses and pocket protectors who's social lives consist of being glued to their XBoxes on the weekends.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Those 4 nerdy boys in the IT dept jumping out of their pocket protectors to help the long-legged cute chick, are like iron filings to a magnet.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Once upon a time, a director in another part of the company had a daughter studying business who needed a summer job..... I was given the task of giving her some projects to do over the course of the summer. I had to beat them away with a stick so that she could get some work done. And I had a female colleague talk to her about her one size too small "daddy's little princess" t shirts that were very flattering. James

Koerper
Koerper

As long as they aren't poster-sized or in my cubicle, I'm not distracted by the "ugly chicks'" calendars. Short skirts and tight shirts on "hot chicks" don't hurt my feelings one bit, but they are WAY more distracting. So, it's not punishment, just a nod to reality.

Absolutely
Absolutely

Ugly chicks can put art on the walls of their cubicles, or calendars of handsome men, but cute chicks are punished for looking hot in the office? That's some steamin' bullsh*t!

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

The Sea Gull Characteristics: Is hard to find, until they fly in and sh*t all over everything. Quote: ???Let's add 123982397598475 new features to the software, you have until next week.???

tdh2112
tdh2112

This is the way I have heard the moniker of "seagull" used: Occasionally stops in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then leaves. It's hilarious in my office, because we have someone exactly like this. He is a VP.

manisht
manisht

i have such ppl in my team.. they increase the headcount and reduce the productivity.. and the manager thinks the team has more than enough ppl and still cant deliver... such *issues* must be eliminated

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

You can never get a hold of them when you need to, but once they grab hold of something, they f**k it all up.

MahouKame
MahouKame

The Turncoat Characteristics: Has to have all the latest gear and wants to be sure he's on the bleeding edge in the workplace as well. Insists that he can live without the support provided to "standard" folks and can take care of himself so long as you let him have that new OS/gadget/application but complains profusely when service levels suffer as expected. Quote: "I can't work like this!" (juggling his iPhone and trying to sync it with Lotus Notes, Outlook, and his car's bluetooth phonebook)

Former Big Iron Guy
Former Big Iron Guy

The first one is the pathological liar. No matter how good the team, project or department, the liar torpedoes you with his or her suck up lies to management. They make themselves look good by making you look bad. Second, the Engineer. I have found very very few professional engineers that were good at engineering and left the computing to IT. Mostly is is they think that they are god's gifts to computing. We once had an engineering group that stuck their oar in on network infrastructure and server deployment. The were the world's leading authorities on *everything*. (e.g. they know how to make love to your spouse better than you do..) It was really funny how their part of the project came in a 2.5x of budget and almost the same overage on schedule... I guess the worst would be a combo of the liar and the "expert" engineer. Ran into one once and turned that assignment down straight away.... F B I G

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

They were spoiled little turds growing up and now they are spoiled adult turds who think the world revolves around their needs.

zefficace
zefficace

As a lawyer, I would resent that comment, if it weren't true for bunch of people in my profession. Some of them really are annoying turds. As I try to keep up with IT world, I for one have ever growing respect for you IT guys, for both your knowledge... and patience.

WhomEver123
WhomEver123

Wanna-Be: They try to get information on how to do what you do. They seem to discredit your years of training, and think it's a weekend of delving into the books to learn how to do what took 4 +years and umpteen years of work experience. I admire those who are/were able to learn on their own, but some people don't realize how much hands on programming one had to do to get to where they are today. They seem to think you are just another pretty face, and that's how you got your job, and that anyone can do it. Also, they glamourize your job. They want your job. It's hip to be in IT! And then there's those that insist we should know everything and anything that has to do with computers and software and the whole field in general, not realizing how vast it is!!!

burnite
burnite

I have worked in health care related IT for a couple of years now, and Dr.s are the worst when demanding "non-essential que skipping" The service managers about fall all over themselves trying to get 4 or 5 five guys to figure out why a doc's printer isnt working or his LCD screen is "Out of focus" when some poor admin or nurses PC has melted down and is holding up patient records or even med info. Doctors are big babies, with big ego's.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

when I describe many professionals, be it lawyers, doctors, brokers, etc., who think the world revolves around their needs and will throw a temper tantrum if they don't get the attention they think they deserve or the latest gadgets and gizmos.

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