Office Politics: You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play!

“The person who says ‘I’m not political’ is in great danger…. Only the fittest will survive, and the fittest will be the ones who understand their office’s politics.”

~ Jean Hollands ~

Sabrina is an introvert who was intimidated by office politics. She tried to avoid them completely, but the result was that she felt like she was losing. She was right. Office politics is a game, and you can’t win if you don’t play!

Whether you work for an international corporation, government agency, small business or non-profit, office politics are unavoidable.

It’s tempting to press your nose to the grindstone and avoid getting involved. “My work speaks for itself,” you console yourself. Unfortunately, that’s not always true. If you choose to remain on the sideline, you may miss out on opportunities awarded to those who are in the game and are playing to win at office politics.

Be proactive in facing the politics in your workplace so you can dictate change for your professional benefit. Plum projects, career advancement and job security will be difficult to make happen if you stay on the sideline and remain a spectator.

Here are six suggestions to help you “get into the game”:

1. Know your culture, how things get done and what defines success.
Stay intune with how your organization is run, who are the most influential people, how your division is run, what is the defined culture, how the company measures success, and what style of management is demonstrated by its leaders. That way, you can better equip yourself with the skills to navigate within the work politics that are being permeated through the company.

2. Play the political game being played.
Even though you may not like the political game being played, it’s important to stay intune with it and not shy away from it. Often, the game being played isn’t the oneyou want or think should be played, but it’s necessary to play it because that’s how others are doing it and you’ll be left behind if you don’t stepup and be proactive.

3. Know when to fight and when to remain quiet.
You can’t always go to battle with all of the politics that exist inside your organization. Be selective when choosing which ones to engage in and which ones to sit out. When you do decide to play the political game, make sure you stay steadfast and strong so you can create the results you want.

4. Help others so they help you.
Get your peers, superiors and members of your work group to recognize you are doing things to help them.  It’s a subtle way of suggesting “I’ve done something for you and you can do something for me” without actually saying that. You are building a “bank account” that you can write checks against at a later time.  Look for opportunities to do things for others that benefit them and show them that you have helped them so they can help you at a later time. Then, don’t hesitate to take advantage of career-enhancing opportunities to leverage the tokens you have built up.

5. Learn from the people who work the politics the best.
There are people in the organization who know how to play the political game the best. They work it for their advantage. Often, they have a likeable personality, are great communicators and relationship builders. Learn from them. Also, take note of those who fail at office politics and avoid making the same mistakes.

6. Find a mentor who knows the political landscape.
There will always be someone else who knows how to play the political game better than you. Get them on your side. They will help you navigate the politics and use them to your benefit. Seek out a mentor or someone who knows the inside politics so he or she can teach you deal with problems and opportunities.

Remember that everyone must play the office politics game—or risk getting left behind. As Sabrina learned, even introverts need to learn how to deal with office politics.

If you need help to developing a plan to win at office politics, Joel’s career advancement coaching the customized action plan you need to succeed. Sign up today!

Talkback: Do you play to win or sit on the sidelines and avoid getting involved in office politics? What advice do you have for those who want to win at political games in the office?

Change Your Mindset:
Office Politics Isn’t a Dirty Word

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“When we win on an issue we call it leadership. When we lose, we call it politics. Practicing politics simply means increasing your options for effective results.”

~ John Eldred ~

When my client, Miles, heard the phrase “office politics,” it brought up negative associations (backstabbing, kissing up, gossip, who you know gets you to advance). One way to embrace and capitalize on office politics is to get rid of the actual words “office” and “politics” so you won’t feel so charged by these words. Instead think of it as “company culture” or “building relationships” or “how work is done.” When you have a better and more positive perspective, you’ll be able to embrace what is actually happening and leverage it to your benefit.

Once Miles changed his mindset, he was able to use these eight tips to harness the power office polit… er, “company culture, and you can do the the same:

1. Persuade others to your opinion.
Nobody exists in an environment where everybody agrees. You will work on projects and assignments in which many different approaches will be used by a variety of people. It’s important to understand where everyone is coming from and their different perspective. At the same time, you want to work on getting others to buy-in to your perspective. You can do this by providing factual information backed with logic. Also, strive to build a reputation that creates immediate respect. This will help you get the things accomplished you need to get done.

2. Don’t intimidate superiors. Try to avoid going over your superior’s head.
Most bosses feel a need to establish and maintain their authority. Often, based on their title and that they are a superior, they feel they can leverage and take advantage of their power and authority. It’s important for you to not intimidate them or go over their head because they will feel the threat of your actions and thus could undermine your career.

3. Make your boss look good.
Watch out for your tendency to avoid making your boss look good. Constantly look for opportunities in which you can help your boss shine. Making your boss look bad or saying something negative about him or her will come back and bite you.

4. Cultivate a positive, accurate and likable image.
The image you project can directly impact how well others trust you, like you and want to work with you. If you project a negative and unlikable image, it makes it easy for people to judge and question you.

5. Communicate accurate information.
If you constantly communicate accurate information, people will be less suspicious and less inclined to question your integrity. When the work politics start to get out of hand, others will rely on you because of the established honest and respectful image you have projected.

6. Be aligned to many groups – not just one.
It’s easy to be aligned to one specific group in your company. You either get drawn or exposed to a few people in one group and latch on to them. However, aligning yourself to many groups will help you when the influence of one group gets diminished or removed. You will want to rely on other groups and create a coalition to champion your ideas and projects.

7. Create allies who like you, support you and will go to bat for you.
Having a strong and wide network of allies is vital when the work politics start to disrupt and damage things around you. You’ll see how beneficial it is to have allies who can help mitigate negative situations.

8. If all else fails, move on.
After exhausting all your resources, talents and abilities in working the political system inside the company and getting nowhere, it might be time to move on. Sometimes the politics are so bad that you need to remove yourself from the toxic environment and make a fresh start in a new company.

If you need help navigating office politics to get ahead at work, Joel’s career advancement coaching could give you the competitive advantage you need. Sign up today!

Talkback: Have you ever gotten tripped up by office politics? What happened?

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