Performance Vs. Manipulation
Is it better to focus on performing your absolute best in your job, constantly learning from your own mistakes, as well as others, contributing to a team to achieve a goal, taking responsibility for your actions, and going the extra mile, or is it better to skate by with the bare minimum and manipulate those around you to get what you want at work (a promotion, a raise)?
I think the answer largely depends on what kind of manager you have. That factor, above all the hard work and diligence, can make the difference between moving up a ladder and staying exactly where you are. If your boss is one of the ugly ones described in DDave's post this week, there is a good chance that no matter how hardworking, honest, and intelligent you may be, your only path to promotion is going to be by manipulating your peers and pandering to your boss' emotional level: that of a child (or a psychopath).
It is quite unfortunate to be morally bound as an honest hard worker. In addition to this you need to "play the game" of manipulation in order to get ahead in many professions. The ugly bosses are the ones that only positively respond when others make mistakes and you end up being the only one left standing. The good boss is the one that allows you to take a step forward out of the proverbial line of mediocrity. When you attempt that with the ugly boss, he'll either take no notice at all or tell you to step back, as his position is threatened when you shine too brightly. That ugly boss doesn't want others to take notice when you're doing exceptional work, either. He'll stifle your progress at every moment he can if he begins to suspect that you are a threat. How counter intuitive to progress in general!
The healthiest relationships, both inside and outside of work, are those that aren't enveloped in mind games, manipulation, and constant evaluation of how and what people are thinking of each other at any given time. In a perfect world, you are given a milestone, and you work to achieve it. A problem comes up, and you work with the best possible ideas in order to find a solution. So on and so fourth until completion. The only real problems get in the way when you pepper in the not so subtle reality that people are full of themselves constantly. Each person is trying to get their way, each person thinks their own idea is the best instead of thinking critically about the other ideas proposed. Basically, people are boners.
The course of action is to first evaluate what kind of boss you have, and play to that angle. There is a spectrum, of course, and bosses and peers may display elements across the spectrum while predominantly staying toward one side.
Perhaps your boss has mostly elements of being a royal prick with blissful moments of Buddha mentor mode. He knows his stuff and can teach it well, but manages you and your crew like a wild dog manages its dingle-berries. Maybe the boss is on the other end of the spectrum, where 95% of the time he will be cool and easy to get along with, but then every once in a while he does a juice cleanse or something and reverts back to the empowered better-than-everyone vegan that he was in college. Yikes!
Once you've figured out how your superior works and can cater to his most vulnerable side you are free to play the same game with your coworkers. Hopefully you work in an environment where there is only very little of this kind of manipulation and mind games are not always going to be necessary. Also it would be ideal if for the most part you and your all star team hit grand slams left and right.
Now, it is obviously stressful to be constantly playing games with your coworkers and boss, so if there is too much of this going on, another option is to leave the company and find somewhere with a more productive environment. I'm not sure I've ever heard someone say "I'm really sad to have quit that job." It's pretty easy to find a reason to not like work after you've left, because, well, it's work. And really, if you say to someone, "Hey, would you rather go do stuff you want to do, or go to work?" The person would be mad to say anything other than the former. A select few like their jobs that much.
A recurring theme is that we deal out the truth here at Financial Jiu Jitsu. One of these truths is: The game exists. You can either get played by it, or you can start playing.