The Do’s and Don’ts of Office Politics

Politics (Poly-ticks) Poly means many. Ticks are blood-sucking insects. So my personal definition of ‘politics’ is ‘many bold sucking insects.’ That’s a really funny definition but unfortunately sometimes it’s true. Many people avoid office politics altogether in an attempt to stay above the fray, but that’s like hanging outside after dark and deciding not to participate in insect bites. You can decide all you want, but rest assured that you’ll be scratching before daybreak. Instead of ignoring politics in the office, how about learning to play the game well? In the presentation ‘Managing Up – How to Lead Your Boss to an A-Game Performance,’ these are the do’s and don’ts of effective office politics:

The Do’s

1. Do get along with people.

You have a personality so use it in a positive fashion. If people like you, they’re less likely to take a bite out of you when you’re not around.

2. Do be pleasant, professional and assertive.

Act in such a fashion that others will be happy to see you coming down the hall. After all, saying, “Good morning,” and, “How was your weekend?” cost you absolutely nothing.

3. Do focus on the issues, not on the persons involved in the issues.

Even when people are going at each other’s throats, there are some underlying issues. If you can get them to re-focus on the issue, you’ll be the hero in the situation.

4. Do be careful about choosing sides during office power struggles.

Even if you’re caught up in the situation, you can discuss things without taking sides. Abraham Lincoln had a way of presenting issues during trial that left the jury wondering whose side he was really on. But of course, he slanted things just enough so that any idiot would know how they should vote. Now that’s a great command of politics.

5. Do make sure that participation in politics doesn’t take the place of doing your work.

Some people get so caught up in the dynamics of office politics that they never seem to get around to doing their job. Do make sure you get the job done.

6. Do keep your mouth shut when people tell you things in confidence.

Even if they never asked you to keep it secret, when it comes to office politics, it’s always better to hear more than you say.

7. Do your best to be helpful to others.

Very often you’ll find that this investment in others will reap you great benefits.

8. Do keep a written record of daily activities.

It’s often difficult to remember what happened six months ago, so keep a daily diary of activities and notes about what was said during the day. Diaries are cheap and it’ll only take about ten minutes at the end of the day to fill out your personal record. Store your journal in a safe place so others cannot read it. I always hid mine in plain site among the other books on the bookshelf in my office.

9. Do act the way you want others in the political environment to act.

If you want them to lie and reveal confidential statements, do so yourself. If you want some other behavior, make sure you model it.

The Don’ts

The don’ts of office politics are much simpler.

1. Don’t avoid office politics.

When you make the decision not to participate, that doesn’t mean that the political dynamics aren’t going on. What you don’t know can hurt you.

2. Don’t talk to outsiders about the politics going on in your organization. Gossip makes you look like a poor teammate.

3. Don’t display a ‘holier than thou’ attitude by lecturing your co-workers on the evils office politics. They’ll hate you for it in the long run and that’s just bad politics!