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3 Ways to Win Over the Office Curmudgeon


Every office has at least one: that grumpy guy or lady who won’t be charmed, no matter what you do. The problem is that winning over those less-than-friendly folks is essential to your career. Heck, they might even be the boss, and if they aren’t, their buy-in or lack of it might prevent you from getting the boss’s attention — at least in any way that you’d want to get it.


(Photo Credit: echoe69/Flickr)

At least, that’s what Charles Murray argues in his new book, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead. Grumps, he says, secretly run the world.

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And while Anne Fisher of Fortune points out that Murray is the head of the “unabashedly conservative” Washington think tank American Enterprise Institute, it’s hard not to be persuaded by his opinion that curmudgeons are “…highly successful people of both genders who are inwardly grumpy about many aspects of contemporary culture, make quick and pitiless judgments about your behavior in the workplace, and [who] don’t hesitate to act on those judgments in deciding who gets promoted and who gets fired.”

Yikes. So how can we win over these powerful grumps? Fisher parses his advice, and comes up with a few points, including:

1. Watch your language.

Recent grads fresh from the dorms might have incorporated the occasional F-bomb into their everyday speech. De-incorporate it, and fast. The new boss is not your roommate.

2. Emails are not texts.

Remember business letters? If you don’t, now is the time to catch up. While every email doesn’t have to sound like your cover letter, it shouldn’t contain emoji, textspeak, or overly casual modes of address. Be respectful and clear about what you want. Even your cheerful co-workers will appreciate it.

3. Use precise language.

Are you tired of hearing “impact” as a verb and “issue” instead of “problem”? You might have more in common with the curmudgeons than you know. One side effect of working in an office is picking up corporate speak — most of which means precisely nothing.

Remember that the purpose of language is to communicate, not obfuscate. Be polite, use real words, and say what you need. Everyone in the office will thank you.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you the office curmudgeon? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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