Hate Office Politics? Have to Work Under Your Underqualified Former Coworker?

Question:

I hate office politics. I’ve never wanted to play them. Now it’s costing me.

My former co-worker, “Dee,” has been promoted. She’s now my boss.  I don’t know if I can stay at my company under these conditions.

Dee didn’t deserve her promotion. She is less experienced than three of us on the team. She doesn’t have any special expertise. She’s not a leader. She got her promotion not because she was the best, but because she fawns on our general manager.

I should have seen this coming. When I first interviewed with my company, I liked the supervisor who interviewed me, but not the GM, whose oversized ego was apparent. My supervisor told me that the final step in the hiring process was the GM interviewing me, but the GM never asked me any questions. Instead, he talked about himself, how he started the company and how great it was.

I knew I’d have a hard time working under him because I don’t appreciate people who are stuck on themselves. But I needed the job, liked the man who was to be my immediate supervisor and didn’t think I’d have a lot of contact with the GM.

Fast forward: I’ve been here a year. It’s clear who gets rewarded—anyone who praises the GM. If you do, he gives you opportunities and you move up.

Last month, our supervisor resigned, and the GM promoted Dee. This shocked all of us, but the others are “sucking it up.” I don’t know if I can.

I’m angry and tempted to ask Dee if she really has stardust in her eyes when she looks at the GM or if she’s just able to put on a great act.

Answer:

I don’t like office politics either. You may be right that Dee lacks expertise, experience and leadership qualities and has been unfairly promoted. Still, you have yourself questions.

Questions you need to ask

Does Dee excel at office politics or does she have skills and qualities you don’t acknowledge, like the ability to respect others and to give them credit for what they’ve accomplished?

Was the GM’s role in your hiring process to interview you, which your immediate supervisor had already done, or to introduce you to his company. If so, did you hold how he did that against him?

In other words, are you the one out of step?

The stardust question risk

Even if you have called the situation exactly right, don’t ask Dee the stardust question unless you’ve examined why you want her answer and the risk you take is worth it.

First, it’s catty.

Second, does it serve a purpose? Is it to validate your suspicion she fakes admiration for her advantage? Will you believe her if she tells you she admires the GM?  Your question hands Dee grenade with a short fuse that she can toss back at you. Dee can pass your question on to on the GM to explain why you don’t belong on the team.  

4 options when another unfairly gets a job promotion

You have four options when you feel someone receives a promotion unfairly. You can decide you don’t care, though this may whittle your job satisfaction down to a sliver.

You can study how Dee got her promotion. She apparently speaks the GM’s language, the language of admiration. That may be genuine for her or it may be that she’s figured out how the game is played, at least in your company. Now that you realize that applause gets rewarded, focus on what you can admire about your GM. Clearly, he’s built an organization—one you wanted to work for.

You can self-assess. Is there anything you did or didn’t do that resulted in a promotion you might have wanted to be handed to someone else? Do you work hard or are you the person who packs up their desk the moment the normal workday ends? Did you fail to build the right kind of relationship with senior management? Have you volunteered to take on additional projects?

When you self-assess, take a good look inside. You don’t like the GM and often what we don’t like in others mirrors our own problem traits. You got ticked off before you started work at your company, because the GM didn’t ask you questions, but talked about the company. Could that be because you expected to be his focus, when he instead bragged about his hard work?

Finally, you can vote with your feet and find a new employer. If you chose this option, hang your ego on the hook until you leave, because you demonstrate your maturity by your actions. Don’t let your anger, frustration or envy run you. Instead, let your emotions power you into constructive off-the-job actions, such as perfecting your resume and searching for the right new job.

© 2020, Lynne Curry Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/ or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.  www.workplacecoachblog.com.

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One thought on “Hate Office Politics? Have to Work Under Your Underqualified Former Coworker?

  1. Hard truths here. Often enough, when you step back and analyze your behavior and take another look at others, you discover some uncomfortable truths–speaking from personal experience.

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