Office Politics: Love Or Hate! It’s Here To Stay

Sections of this topic

    “There’s too much wrangling and maneuvering going on. Joe really knows how to get on his boss’s good side. I hate this politicking….I just want to do my job.”

    These are things I hear in my career management and development programs. Are these the types of comments you might make as well?

    Whether you hate it, admire it, practice it or avoid it, office politics is a fact of life in any organization. And, like it or not, it’s something that you need to understand and play to an extent to be successful no matter what business or organization you work for.

    “Office politics” are the strategies that people use to gain advantage personally or for a cause they support. The term often has a negative connotation because some people use it to seek advantage at the expense of others. Good “office politics”, on the other hand, helps you to promote yourself and your cause in a fair and appropriate way.

    Why It’s Important

    If you deny the bad politics that may be going on around you and avoid dealing with them, you may needlessly suffer whilst others take unfair advantage. And if you avoid practicing good politics, you miss the opportunities to further your own interests and those of your team and your cause.

    Making Politics Work FOR You

    To deal effectively with office politics and use it yourself in a positive way, you must first to accept the reality of it. Second you need to be a good observer. Third you then use the information you gathered to build strong networks and to start practicing influencing which is the proper name for good politics. Here are strategies to get you started.

    1. Re-Map the Organization Chart
    Office politics often circumvent the formal organization chart. Sit back and watch for a while and then re-map the organization chart in terms of political power.

    • Who are the real influencers?
    • Who is the “go to guy” when things need to get done?
    • Who champions or mentors others?
    • Who is “the brains behind the organization”?

    2. Understand the Informal Network
    Once you know who’s who in the organization, you have a good idea of where the power and influence lay. Now you have to understand the social networks.

    • Who gets along with whom?
    • Who eats together? Works out together? Commutes together?
    • Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
    • What is the basis or commonality for the groups or cliques ?

    3. Build Relationships
    Now that you know how the existing relationships work, you need to build your own social network accordingly.

    • Do not be afraid of politically powerful people in the organization. Get to know them.
    • Ensure you have relationships in all directions (peers, bosses, executives)
    • Start to build relationships with those who are “in the know.”
    • Be a part of multiple networks. This way you can keep your finger on the pulse of the organization.

    Office politics are a fact of life. Positive or negative politics happens. If you don’t participate in the political game, you risk not having a say in what happens to you and perhaps your team. This allows people with less experience, skill or knowledge to influence decisions being made around you and about you.

    Career Success Tip:

    Realize that political savvy brings personal power. And as a career building tool, personal power is a key strategy for success. Skilled influencers are not overtly political; they are seen as competent professional and leaders who play the political game fairly and effectively. Also see Power is Not a Bad WordInfluencing Your Boss – Influencing How to Be taken Seriously.

    Do you want to develop Career Smarts?