Office Politics: Naughty or Nice?

Navigating Office PoliticsI’ve been thinking a lot about office politics in the past couple of weeks. That’s because I’ve been creating an audio program on the subject. I chose that topic because office politics seems to be a term that strikes fear in the hearts of people who work in an organization. Whenever things go wrong for people in their jobs, they tend to blame it on office politics. And often they’re right.

But rather than blame the politics, I suggest making office politics your friend—at least as much as you can. Then, rather than dreading its effect on you and your career, you could learn to be a positive actor in the politics of your workplace.

Maybe a definition of office politics would be helpful at this point.

Office politics is really nothing but a set of relationships that have been created for the sake of fulfilling a shared agenda. It’s a complex set of interactions that exist in order to ensure dominance and control.

When you think about it, it’s no different than a lot of other relationships. For centuries, tribes have banded together to survive and protect their way of life. Clubs are formed for people who have the same interests; political parties —oh, but let’s not even go there. Hopefully you get the idea.

I think what makes office politics so dreaded is that there are no written-down rules that help you navigate it. However, there are some ways you can become more aware of the politics of your workplace so that you don’t just blunder around putting your foot in it.

Who are the key players?

The first thing to do is to figure out who the key players are in your workplace. Of course you know the people who are high up on the org chart. But there are others who are important as well:

  • Those close to the key people in an organization often have a lot of political juice
  • those who are considered indispensible
  • individual contributors who are well thought of
  • ‘street smart’ people who can build a relationship with anyone ( and who are sometimes,though not always, highly manipulative)
  • people who seemed to have been anointed for greater things or have an aura of success about them
      These are some examples of prime players in office politics—there could be a lot more. You just need to look around and start identifying who ‘the players’ are. Once you’ve done that, you can start deciding where you’d like to be in the mix.

Here are some strategies you can use to ensure that you end up on the right side of the politics, not the victim of them.

Be a good human being

Know the rules of the road in your company and follow them. The more you follow the rules, the less the gossips have to ding you on. And you know as well as I do that people talk about other people all the time.(More about that below.)

Build relationships with people you look up to

After you’ve determined who the players are, then take another look at your list and figure out which ones you would like to build relationships with. Choose those who you admire and who seem conscious about how the politics of your workplace function. Then find ways to build a good relationship with these people. Some ways to do that?

  • Sit next to them at meetings, luncheons, or other business activities
  • Do what you can to help them be and/or stay successful
  • Have their back
  • Be extra-meticulous in delivering on your promises to them
  • Seek them out for advice and counsel
  • Make offers of assistance where appropriate

Stay out of negative 3rd party conversations

There is a ton of time and energy wasted in companies. How? By indulging in negative 3rd party conversations-better known as gossiping about or smearing the reputation of others in the workplace. If it is not necessary for getting work done, it becomes entertainment—and sleazy entertainment at that. Just avoid it. If you become known as a gossip monger, how do I know that you’re not ripping me apart when I’m not around? You lose trust and integrity in the process and this will not help you in the political scene of your workplace.

Build a broad coalition of support

Yeah, not everyone is going to love you. That’s just not the way the world is put together, unfortunately. But building your own ‘tribe’ is a great idea. Be a good work colleague to a circle of people and they will be your supporters too. Choose people who share your values and work ethics and with whom you enjoy spending time. One of the main determinants of job satisfaction is having good relationships with people in your workplace. And the more people you can have good relationships with, the better for you and your position in the workplace.

I’ve listed a few strategies to get you started on navigating office politics in your workplace. It can be challenging at times but it doesn’t have to be once you get the hang of it. We’re all part of the politics and you’ve been functioning in some manner as long as you’ve been in your current company. But wouldn’t it be nice to be conscious of what you’re creating rather than just stumbling into success or failure?

Need more help?

If you’d like some more detail about managing office politics in a positive way, I’ve just released a new audio-based program which gives a whole bunch of strategies to understand and thrive in the often-misunderstood world of office politics. Go to this link to find out more about it.

Best wishes for your success….

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