Why Office Politics Are A Good Thing

Why Office Politics Are A Good Thing

For too long now, office politics has gotten a bad rap. You hear the term and it has a taint and perhaps rightfully so in most cases. Visions of brown-nosers and disingenuous fellow workers pop up on your mental screen. It’s hard to shake that impression, but I’m here to tell you that you need to do just that.

If you are not currently engaging in office politics, it’s time to get started and here’s why: Being politically savvy is a crucial ingredient in your career success. Forging good relationships up and down the org chart is a sure way to get yourself promoted, and a key to becoming a respected leader.

The truth is, politics is how business gets done in organizations. Learning how to navigate through your firm and influence others to get your ideas accepted is how you rise. And, let me be clear: you don’t have to be something you are not to win the political battle. Be transparent. Be great at what you do. Soar with your strengths. Use all of your gifts and talents to their fullest. But while you do, pay close attention to your surroundings and listen carefully. Use your political instincts to sort out the real line of authority in your organization.

You may say, “I am not a politician. I don’t play those games.”  I would gently push back against that assertion. Though we have never met, I would guess that you have won the political game somewhere in your life. In their wonderful book, Break Your Own Rules, authors Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath and Mary Davis Holt, write:

Remember the time you called in a favor to get your daughter into a class with the teacher everyone considers a rock star? That was nice political maneuvering. And when you were able to talk that vendor into putting your order at the top of his list and thereby solve your timeline dilemma? That was political savvy.

The authors ask you to imagine how much you could achieve if you put that talent to work in the office.

While business is not always fair, and the best guy or gal does not always win, you greatly enhance your chances of fast-tracking your career by being a player and being shrewd without being cutthroat.

Take Action Now

Here are five suggestions to increase your political acumen:

  1. Look closely at how things get done in your organization. How, exactly, do decisions get made? Ask people you trust to give you their take on what’s happening behind the scenes and why. This knowledge will help you get the current lay of the land.
  2. Nothing stays the same for long. Pay attention to changes at the top. Who’s in and who’s out? Who’s aligned with whom? Consider how these shuffles may affect you and the department or division where you work. What’s your next, best move? How can you gain leverage?
  3. Get credit for your work. Learn how to artfully toot your own horn. That begins with making sure your boss and your boss’s boss know your achievements and the value you are bringing.
  4. Be known for getting stuff done. Many people can convey a request and get a ‘yes’ but it’s the rare person who has the political capital to get the project to the finish line. Work to build the relationships that make things happen. This is your ticket to the top.
  5. Above all, build your reputation as a go-to person who can be trusted to do the right thing. Be known for helping others and giving more than you get.
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