Personal Exit Strategy and Office Politics

Smart companies have an exit strategy if things don’t go as planned and improvement seems unlikely. They are necessary for people, too.

Personal Exit Strategy and Office Politics

Smart companies have an exit strategy if things don’t go as planned and improvement seems unlikely. They are necessary for people, too.

Why should you have an exit strategy? You may have a better opportunity with another company. What if you hate the job you have? Maybe you have become stagnant in your job or see no promotion opportunities. Maybe you are burned out.

Illustration by Getty Images © wichai leesawatwong

Illustration by Getty Images © wichai leesawatwong

So how do you develop one?

First, write down your career goals and objectives, and create a timeline to match. If they don’t match, you need to decide whether to stick around.

Second, make sure you are doing the things that fill up your résumé with contributions and accomplishments. Update your résumé at least every 90 days. Same thing with your LinkedIn or other social media profiles. This may serve as a wake-up call. If you aren’t adding to it, you may not be doing the things valuable to your boss.

Third, stay in touch with your network — and be sure to include recruiters in that group. Keep in regular contact with the people in your network by updating them on your achievements. This network will save you when you decide to move on.

Last, create some rules for making an exit when you do leave.

Rule 1: Give a two-week notice to your boss. Believe it or not, a growing number of people quit by just leaving. Make sure you leave on good terms.

Rule 2: Tie up loose ends and don’t leave a load of unfinished projects. While not required, give your contact information for follow-up. But any contacts after a month are a stretch.

Rule 3: No trash-talking about the employer, ever. Not to your former co-workers and especially not to your new ones.

Let your plan be your guide. Know what will trigger your exit decision, know where you are going when you leave and don’t burn bridges.

Q. I have some co-workers who are so competitive that they are making my life miserable. I just want to do my job and get along. But these people are the world’s greatest kiss-ups. I think my boss likes me, but any time a good assignment comes along, it goes to one of these clowns. What do I do?

A. You are in the midst of office politics, which includes sucking up, lying and mudslinging. This is the world where the mediocre employee gets ahead of the better person and where workers are stabbed in the back, sabotaged and kept out of the loop.

John Thompson

John Thompson, aka Mr. T

As long as you are working, you will be affected by office politics, and you couldn’t stay out of it if you tried. Some say the drivers of office politics are power, fear and jealousy, so you must position yourself to deal with them.

Here’s how:

First, know your personal goals. What do you really want from your job? Focus on that and block out the noise around you.

Second, you need allies. Be kind to everyone. Do favors for people and help them when asked. Be gracious.

Third, do whatever you can to make the people above you look good. Knock assignments out of the park and make sure the boss knows the credit goes to you. As long as you keep your bosses happy, performance may not matter that much. But if your bosses aren’t happy, performance may not save you.

Fourth, zip it. Whining or complaining is a losing strategy.

Fifth, be visible. Volunteer. Solve problems.

Send your career questions to

John Thompson is the former executive director of TCU’s Center for Career and Professional Development. For more information about careers, visit