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Managing Workplace Personalities: The Politician Without A Plan

By Lisa Woods (1009 words)
Posted in Management on April 4, 2014

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We don’t always get to choose the people we work with, nor whom we work for, but if you want to succeed, your relationships with everyone in your work environment must be cultivated, especially as a Manager. Managers need to maximize the potential of their team. If you leave people out because of personality clashes, everyone suffers, especially your results. One of the most annoying and common personalities to prepare for is the politician without a plan. Below are some tactics you can use to understand, deal with, and manage this difficult personality type. 


The politician without a plan, also known as the “Unsubstantiated Climber” looks to please people above them and is willing to step over everyone else to get ahead.  They focus more on their personal goals than their results and usually don’t have much to show in the form of work product. 


This guy or gal comes in many shapes and sizes as your boss, coworker or employee. Although they may achieve short-term gains at your expense, don’t let them distract your path. Patience, although a virtue, is something they rarely exhibit and eventually the unsubstantiated climber will slip and fall hard…it’s important to do your part to create a strong foundation for your own success.


The Politician Without A Plan


Why do people act this way? 


It happens all too often that people get ahead for the wrong reasons. They act this way because they don’t have a chance of succeeding on their own merit. This atmosphere is often fostered by organizations having leadership that like to be revered, and in turn recognize those individuals for it. In the end those leaders fail and so do the climbers that followed them.


If you successfully maneuver around these individuals to be seen and heard for the right reasons, they will come to understand that rather than stepping on you, they have to start respecting you because they don’t want to be seen as the only person who isn’t doing so.



How to deal with them?


Your goal when dealing with Unsubstantiated Climbers is to be patient and strategic. Make a strong effort to maneuver around these individuals even when (especially when) they are your boss. You can do this by developing mentee relationships with several individuals in your organization. 


A Mentee Relationship does not need to be formal. It can be something as simple as stopping in someone’s office and saying…


“Hey, I would love to get your opinion on something I’m working on”



“We are about to go live with this new process, is your team comfortable with it?”


Basically, go out of your way to include others in your work, from other departments and all levels of the company.


This process will get you known, build your value based on work product and ensure the unsubstantiated climber stops stepping on you because it will make them look bad to those who grow to respect your value.


How to manage them?


When managing these individuals be careful not to appear like you are holding them back. Chances are more than likely that they have their eye on your job…you don’t want to appear to be jealous.


Instead, focus on “substantiating” their results and making them accountable for them.


Start by setting clear objectives with clear intermediary milestones; monthly or quarterly reviews to discuss and document progress.


In addition, call them out on their work:

  • No dodging answers allowed. Make sure you continue to ask until you get answers to your questions.

  • Have them justify their ideas and ensure they are prepared to talk with you. In person meetings are a good way to avoid the excuses of email or phone updates.

  • Remember, you are not their admin! Make sure they come prepared and follow up in writing instead of you having to document things for them.


Unsubstantiated climbers are all around us. Sometimes it takes longer than we would like for them to show their true colors to the entire organization. Just remember, getting angry or frustrated is not going to help. Proactively building your own reputation based on real results is the only way to climb higher over the long run.




Written by Lisa WoodsPresident ManagingAmericans.com  Lisa is a dynamic business leader & author with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth in the corporate world. Today she helps entrepreneurs transition their vision into reality. Whether they are starting a new business, or taking their existing business to the next level, Lisa provides the tools and strategic support to transition successfully. This work includes strategic consulting, business feasibility assessments, and organizational design aligned with business opportunity and leadership commitment. She helps business leaders drive growth & increase profits.


Do you have a question for Lisa?  Post it in our Executive Leadership Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert



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