AUNTIE EM’S HOMESPUN ADVICE FOR LAWYERS: Learning the office politics game

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Dear Auntie Em,

I’ve started recently as a trainee at a law firm and I’m finding that the relationships I’m establishing with my colleagues are of a rather different nature to the genuine friendships I made at university and school.

Is this superficiality normal?


Disclaimer: Auntie Em has never worked in a law firm. But she is an aunt and has a psychology degree. As a teenager, Auntie Em had a dream predicting 9/11.

Dear Adrian,

Welcome to the cut-throat world of the workplace, where no-one is your friend no matter how many beers you have together.

It’s a sad truth that all colleagues who care about their jobs hate each other a little bit. You might think you’re too nice for that, so let me put it this way: if you had the chance to get a promotion over one of your colleagues, would you step aside, write a commendation and let them have the gig? Or would you try your darndest to get it for yourself? That’s right poodle, you’d grab that promotion quicker than a neutrino drinking Red Bull at CERN.

So, rather than trying to befriend your workmates, focus on gently undermining them instead. And while you’re at it, why not turn them against each other? It’s fun – honest! Here’s a five-point guide.

1. Next time they joke about one of the bosses who gives everyone a hard time, mention casually that said boss has been praising your work for weeks.

2. Boldly take credit for other people’s work in large mass emails safe in the knowledge that anyone subsequently trying to claim the work as their own will look petty. If someone questions you about it later, say you thought the work was mediocre and that you were just protecting them by making it seem like yours.

3. Get a sense of the sort of person your supervisor would fancy, then casually insinuate that the most incompatible of your colleagues may have created a “sex shrine” to them.

4. Praise colleagues heavily for completing menial tasks (“Ah! You made the coffee! That’s wonderful! Well done!”), but remain silent when they have good ideas about serious work stuff.

5. Finally, give excessive praise about them to your bosses – this may sound counter-intuitive but it means they can only fall short of all expectations (ha!).

In the unfortunate instance that you find yourself warming to any of your colleagues as you undermine them, resist the temptation to form a strong bond: little good can come of it.

KIS (Keep It Superficial)

Auntie Em

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