I work at a company that is restructuring its operations. My position has been reduced from two people to one person, and the new job will be finalized in the new year. As a result, I have to reapply for my position. Tensions are high as rumours spread about what future positions will be available. My colleague and I both intend to reapply for the job in addition to two other applicants, one of whom is another company employee, while the other is a new applicant.
The stress at work has become almost unbearable, as colleagues begin to undermine each other in an attempt to cast themselves in a better light. I don't have the stomach for it and I am frustrated by the whole situation. My manager is great and I suspect that this person recognizes what's going on. I don't want to agitate the situation by approaching my manager with my concerns. Do I inform management of what I suspect is happening or should I learn to deal with it?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Howatt HR Consulting, Kentville, N.S.
My advice will focus on what you can control: your behaviour. When we watch politicians in action, it seems like they believe that negative campaigning influences voters' decisions – why else would they resort to it? However, in my experience, employees who use this approach to put others in a bad light, for self gain, often project themselves as ineffective and lacking confidence. If they believe they are the best fit, they do not need to spend energy persuading others about who is worthy, in an attempt to put themselves in a positive light.
I agree with your decision to not engage in negative internal politics. Most skilled managers will not be influenced by rumours and they will hire the best candidate available.
Focus your energy on doing your job to the best of your ability and get ready for your job interview. Be prepared to state why you are the best fit and choice. There is a good chance your manager will be a part of the selection process, so trust his track record. A skilled manager is aware of who is doing what, and makes decisions based on facts. Being a positive role model often pays off. Managers know that in this high-flow information society they need employees who are team players, who are collaborative, and who play fair.
It makes sense that you want to work in a culture that is positive and with a manager you trust. Hopefully, what you are now observing is not the norm among employees. If it is, you might want to step back and evaluate whether you really want to apply for the job. It is not in your best interest and health to engage in negative workplace politics. If you do not get this position, I encourage you to believe that another employer will quickly discover your positive qualities and hire you.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Vice-president of human resources,League Financial Partners, Victoria
Let me start by saying I hope this is not some kind of "survival of the fittest" experiment from human resources. My advice must be shaped by the Darwinian scenario you have painted. The fact that not only are you competing against your work mate but also an external candidate, as well as another employee, for one position makes me wonder whether your company has any real interest in either you or your colleague remaining when the reorganization dust settles.
Progressive companies will find ways to mitigate situations such as yours through a variety of programs, including limited competitions, retraining, voluntary departure or early retirement, all of which help to limit the impact on skilled and loyal workers.
Since that appears not to be the case here, however, I would be inclined to meet with your manager to first get her opinion about whether the company wants you to stay and fight for your job given the other candidates, focusing especially on the external one. Then, assuming you get the answer you want, share your feelings and perspective about what is happening in the workplace and ask for guidance on how to address it, or at least live with it. That is her role and indeed her obligation to you. Should you decide to stay and fight, and not take your talents elsewhere, I do wish you the best of luck.
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