Is it possible to just go into work, do your job, and stay out of the office politics and cliquey stuff?
Yes, I’ve made a career out of it. And here’s how that goes, including the ups and downs.
Work hard, and finish work fast. (This is how you set the table for what I’m about to tell you. This reputation helps you get away with a lot of stuff I’ll explain below)
I tend to avoid, or even find a way to not go to meetings. Because 95% of corporate meetings are puffery to “see and be seen”. They accomplish little to nothing a good chat or email conversation can get done. Also, they drain energy and always go past the time allotted. If management calls you on it, tell them you need to finish the billable work, you know, the stuff that makes money. By skipping stupid meetings, you may fall behind in the corporate trail to be promoted, but you’ll get to keep doing the “doer” work without being bothered.
Let’s pause here to combine the two points above into what I like to call, “The Mexican Standoff.” Management will pass you over for promotions based on silly “face time.” But, the benefit is, you smashing deadlines makes you “necessary”. So you’ll probably get average to above average raises. But, you get left alone and get to avoid social events, “see or be seen” meetings, and other corporate events. You get known as the “doer of sh-t quickly.”
Say hello to people once
If they ignore you or just look right through you, you avoid them going forward. You’ll gain a reputation of “quiet” and “keeps to himself”. While this hurts you for large promotions, you get to skip all the, “Will they say hi, do they want to talk today?” garbage many people worry about in Corporate Cubefarms. If management ever asks you about it, tell them how you tried to say hello in the hallways, but corporate zombies looked right through you or ignored you. This gains you automatic favor, because corporations get the spotlight turned back on them. Why aren’t people saying hello? Why are they walking around like zombies? Plus, you are justified in not bothering in trying to be social anymore. You tried once, and if they want to be social, now it’s the other guy’s turn to try. I have more important things to do.
When I walk in the building every day, I have a list of people who I’ll say hello to, and a list of people I walk right by to ignore. Unless they reach out and say hello first. I walk straight to my desk and get work done. No stopping by cubes to ask how people’s “fake” weekend went. No coffee and chit-chat. I march to my desk, open the energy drink, fire up the computer, work, and go home. That’s it.
Never, ever, ever talk about social life with these people
99% of them will use these details against you. Be boring, ON PURPOSE. Mention boring family trips if asked, keep your social life discussions boring. Why? To avoid resentment and jealousy. And, you remain “invisible”, so you can just do your work and leave early.
Avoiding drama means avoiding HR
Never talk about religion, politics, or anything sexual. Ever. Couple this with your deadline smashing reputation, you get to do what you want. Your broadcasted social graces should remain “boring” at all times. You may go home and be a superstar, go on exotic vacations, and have a great life outside the work. Never broadcast this…Ever. It invites jealousy and envy. Remain “invisible”.
Sometimes, leave work early, or come in late
Remember my first bullet point above? Smashing deadlines grants you exclusions you’ll appreciate down the road. EI might leave two hours early to go work on a side business. I might leave two hours early to go spend time with my daughter. Are the other zombies upset? Maybe. But, remember, I smashed deadlines. Also, changing up your schedule a bit keeps the zombies off your back. they’ll sit wondering, “why is he late today?” or “Wow, he left early today.” More importantly, they learn less about you. When you come in and leave the same time every day, zombies start to think they know you, and want to “chit-chat.” This is a no-no. Because chit-chat leads to HR complaints, hurt feelings, and hour-long gabfests about nothing. Your job is to be “invisible”. Smash deadlines, and get out to go do other things you enjoy.
The goal is to get things done, but avoid taking on a huge workload. Because if they aren’t going to promote you, then what’s the point? The bonus of this is, you, as the doer and finisher of stuff, get to avoid corporate politics, drama, and other unpleasantries.
P.S. But Don, you may ask … What if your manager calls you into their office and asks you about being more social and “seen”? What if they ask you to take on more work?
Ah, this is simple. Remind them of all the work you’ve finished, and remind them how a cost of living raise isn’t conducive to taking on even more work, especially compared to what you get done versus your coworkers. You see, if your average coworker in your role gets three things done, and you get five to six, then you have leverage. Your boss might ask you to do #7, which includes a bunch of drama and a whole lot of headaches. You skip it, or go around it. If they push, remind them you do more than any of your coworkers. They can either pay you more, or leave it at that. I use a line which is helpful for this. “This ain’t a charity, and I sure as hell ain’t Mother Theresa!”
Be cordial with your boss, but push back when they try to extract additional work out of you, remind them of your non-promotion. Always remind them when necessary. This pushes them back to be happy with the deadline smashing productivity you already do.
It’s at this point where you’ve reached the Mexican standoff conclusion. If the boss tries to get you to do even more without promoting you, you have the option to leave. Besides, the boss knows you smash deadlines. Why interrupt that with corporate politics and drama?
This article first appeared on Quora.
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