office politics

In October 2008, Mr. Calvin Sun wrote an article entitled 10 Ways to Survive Office Politics, that I still refer to today in my presentation Performance Maximizing Leadership. Part 1 of this article was distributed last month and we received a lot of great feedback. We hope you’ll find Part 2 of equal value!

One of the foundational beliefs of the presentation is that performance-maximizing leaders must become adept at office politics to be effective in the workplace. In his article, Sun says, “Office politics will never go away. It’s a fact of company life. However, destructive office politics can demoralize an organization, hamper productivity, and increase turnover.”

Office politics will always be in play and rest assured, politics can be messy on the best of days. Let’s get into some strategies for dealing with the mess:

#6: Be a straight arrow
Sun says, “The best way to keep out of trouble politically is to be seen as someone who doesn’t play office politics,” even though you do. As a salesperson, I learned that people don’t like to be sold; though most people like to buy. In other words, people want to feel like their buying decisions are completely theirs. It’s the same with politics. Alert people to challenges and concerns and let them benefit from what you know, but avoid being seen as a politician.

Above all else, make sure you do what you say you’re going to do, do your job with excellence and admit your mistakes. You may even find others bringing you information that will benefit you and your efforts.

#7: Address “politics” issues openly when appropriate
People often have a natural anxiety about politics. As a leader, you have the ability to make them comfortable, and doing so is fairly simple. Remind them that politics exist in any situation that includes people. In those situations it’s usually people trying to get things done and assert some sense of control. The best way to work the system is to remain open to receiving information and recognizing that there are always ‘back stories’ in play.

Answer questions when you can but remember to keep confidential information confidential. Always try to determine if people have a real need to know some of the things you know. If they don’t, keep your mouth shut.

#8: Document things
Sun says, “Nothing saves a job or career more than having a written record. If you believe a matter will come back to haunt you, make sure you keep a record of the matter, either via email or document.”

There are all kinds of ways to pull this off, but for me (old guy) there is nothing better than a daily journal. Take just 15 minutes at the end of the day and record what happened. Save the journals; I have one dating back 20 years. I’ll probably never need to look back that far but you never know. Often, I’ll review back five years just to celebrate how far I’ve come.

#9: Set incentives to foster teamwork
Sun states, “If you’re a manager or senior executive, take a close look at your incentives. Are you unwittingly setting up your staff to work against each other?” Every organization wants collaboration, but every team member wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”

Tell them! Call out exceptional teamwork so others will get a clue. Reward team members based on how much they achieve. Don’t forget to reward them for how much they help others achieve.

#10: Set an example for your staff
And finally, Sun stated, “People in an organization look to leadership to see how to act. Do you want your staff to refrain from negative politics? Do you want to see collaboration and teamwork instead of petty rivalries, jealousy, and back-stabbing? Act the way you want your staff to act, and they will follow you.”

People truly want someone to follow. If you want your team to be comfortable with office politics, then you must be comfortable with them. Your question might be, “How do I get comfortable with office politics?”  The more you do it, the easier it gets. Just get out there and start relating to people!

These tips, and others are presented in Performance Maximizing Leadership, a presentation that assists organizations in training greatness-manifesting, transformational leaders.

For information on this and other ENPM, Inc. and Art Jackson presentations and resources, Visit

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Art Jackson, Professional Speaker, Executive Coach

Art Jackson

Art Jackson is a professional speaker and executive coach. He is a recognized expert in the areas of leadership, performance improvement and interpersonal skills.

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