“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?
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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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“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~
Client Jonathan Asks: Several of my co-workers like to spread stories without checking to make sure they are true. Recently, someone shared an inaccurate and favorable story about me. What can I do to mitigate the damage?
Coach Joel Answers: Everyone is susceptible to gossip stories at work. But what if the stories are about you? And, even more disturbing, what if they are erroneous and could harm your reputation? Chances are, this won’t happen to you. But, if it does, it’s important to take action.
Once unfavorable stories get created they often get cemented in as a permanent perspective of who you are. This perception becomes their reality and everything else you do reinforces how others see you.
You can have 50 examples of trustworthiness and one false representation and this one malicious example undermines everything else.
During your constant interactions at work it’s possible that things you do might get misinterpreted in a way that is not accurate.
For example, you might be seen as unreliable because you didn’t get something done ontime or be viewed as a loose cannon because you speak up and say things at client meetings that are not appropriate. Some of these stories might be true, but often they aren’t reflective of who you really are at work. The problem is one or two negative stories can cement a perception of you that is actually inaccurate.
Here is a seven-step process to help you deal with workplace gossip and change negative misperceptions into positive (or neutral) ones:
Step 1: Gather information about the unfavorable story.
Without getting emotional or defensive gather as much information as you can about the unfavorable story. This fact-gathering stage is key. You don’t want to fly off the handle, confront someone and make matters even worse.
Step 2: Dispel the unfavorable story.
Go to the source of the story – the person who believes or is communicating the misperception – and explain your situation. Discuss your perspective and what you felt actually happened. Provide enough information so the person understands exactly the truth from your perspective. You could say, “Hi, Carla. I hear you may have some concerns about what I said at the client meeting. Could you tell me about them?” And then, after hearing the other person out, provide your perspective of why you spoke out like you did.
Step 3: Ask about other misperceived stories.
Ask the person if they have any other stories that they would like to share. When you hear the new stories, explain what actually happened versus what was perceived. Provide greater understanding of how these stories could have been misinterpreted.
Step 4: Take responsibility for what you did.
Even though you may not agree with the misperception, you most likely can find some things that you can be accountable for. Show that you have learned a lesson and what you take from this situation. Come up with some examples of what you’ll do differently based on what you have learned.
Step 5: Share favorable stories.
When a person observes something unfavorable, this image gets stuck in their mind. Counter the negative perception by coming up with ways and examples of how you haven’t been that which they think you are. If they think you are untrustworthy, come up with three or four stories illustrating your trustworthiness. These other stories help balance out a one-sided and limited perspective.
Step 6: Ask the person to give you another chance.
Explain how you don’t want to be stuck in their view of something that happened in the past. You sincerely desire to be given another chance to prove yourself. It’s not fair for you to be punished by something that happened only once or it occurred years ago. Get the person to take a risk on you and let you try again. The risk is minimal with tremendous potential upside.
Step 7: Thank the person for their honesty and willingness to help you.
This is one of the best ways to enhance your reputation and clear up any misunderstandings.
Since your career advancement depends on other people’s perceptions of you, it’s important to take action quickly when negative stories about you surface. Get valuable feeback about the way you are perceived at work by completing the perception evaluation here.
Talkback: Have you ever been the subject of unfavorable gossip at work? How did you deal with it?
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“I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.”
~Bob Nardelli, former CEO, Home Depot.~
Elizabeth asks: How can I tell if I need a life coach, a personal coach, or an executive coach? Is there a difference?
Joel answers: The kind of coach you need depends on the area in your life you want to focus on. As I explain the differences between life, personal and executive coaches, you’ll see what I mean.
- Executive coaching focuses on helping the person achieve more at work. It may deal with peer relationships or communication. It might help the worker advance in his or her career or understand how to add value to the company.
For example, Nathan felt like he was ready to take on more responsibility at work, but felt “stuck.” He had always avoided what he called “office politics” and just did his job. He didn’t know how to position himself to get promoted.
When Nathan hired an executive coach, the coach helped Nathan to verbalize his goals. Together they set up a strategy so Nathan could broaden his visibility and increase his influence.
He looked for places he could add value to the company and was soon in line for a promotion.
Executive coaching is about personal discovery, goal setting, planning, and achieving. This benefits both the individual and the organization.
- Life coaching views the person as a whole. It includes work and may cover stress and overworking, but it also covers family and personal goals.
The goals set for a person working with a life coach may be internal- feeling better, better relationships or dealing with bad habits.
Karen was shouldering all the responsibility of caring for her elderly parents. While there were other siblings close by, they chose to let Karen handle it all since she worked from home and could be “flexible.”
Karen chose a life coach to help her balance her work and family responsibilities and also deal with the emotional burden of resentment toward her siblings.
The life coach helped Karen see options and choices. Through her support, Karen was able to call a meeting with the siblings, establish responsibilities, and share her burden.
- Personal coaching is much the same as life coaching. While the goals of an executive coach are specific, measurable, and focused on improvement and success in the work environment, personal coaching is based on empathy.
It is more reflective, allowing for introspection and for the person to grow in self-understanding. Personal coaches can be used as a sounding board and a cheering section.
However, some personal coaches also work with clients on their business, financial, or spiritual concerns.
As you examine your primary goal you’ll be able to determine the kind of coach you need. If you are looking for measurable action to conquer work challenges, choose an executive coach. If you have personal, family, or life concerns with internal or less measurable goals, you may find a personal or life coach will support your needs better.
To learn more about executive coaching and see if this is a good fit for your concern, contact Joel and he’ll be happy to talk to you about it.
Talkback: How have different coaches helped you resolve your concerns? Which kind of coaching has been most effective for you?
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