office politics, don't avoid office politics, become politically savvy

Whether I’m working with senior executives or entry-level staff, private sector or public companies, no one wants to get caught up in office politics.

Office politics: power dynamic, networking, information management, decision-making influence, alliances and cliques, promotion and recognition, etc.

Most people aren’t skilled at navigating these social dynamics, power structures and informal networks, and they simply want to do their job and clock out at 5pm. Some fear office politics and worry about what getting too involved might do to their promotion potential. Their fear of politics probably comes from the way the word sounds. ‘Poli’ – Many and ‘Tics’ –blood sucking insects. Have you ever been successful at avoiding blood sucking insects without first taking steps to keep them from feasting on you? Probably not! You’ve either worn long sleeves, stayed indoors or sprayed bug repellent.

A change of clothing and repellent will not be effective in the workplace, but there are 5 things you can do to get good at office politics.

How to get good at office politics

1. Get comfortable with the idea of being politically savvy

Political savvy doesn’t mean being deceitful, manipulative or selfish. It means taking steps to build authority in the organization to your personal benefit and the benefit of the team for whom you are responsible. Politically savvy people are more likely to succeed than those who try to avoid this human dynamic or those who just work as hard as they can. Politics will always be at play, so get comfortable with it.

2. Develop the characteristics of the politically-savvy

The politically savvy:

  • Choose to participate in the political arena;
  • Participate in an ethical manner, always remembering the Golden Rule;
  • Really care about the mission and the entire team (mission first – people always);
  • Spread credit as much as possible;
  • Use their power as a benefit to as many as possible;
  • Are effective team players.

3. Stay current on what’s happening in the office

Engage in as many conversations as you can and ask a lot of questions. You will learn a lot more and feel safer if you listen rather than provide input. It’s not necessary to comment on everything you hear, just smile and ask another question.

4. Spend time thinking about what’s going on and why

Mathematician, Blaise Pascal stated, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Make time regularly to sit and think about what’s going on in the organization and why it’s happening. If you can’t come up with answers, spend some time with those who have a higher degree of political insight.

5. Develop a personal office politics think tank

This one is fairly easy and can help you as you move forward. Develop a personal cadre of people who will talk with you about the inner workings of your organization. Start with:

    • People you eat lunch with and have coffee with on a regular basis;
    • People who have given you honest feedback in the past;
    • People who are more tenured or in higher level positions than you;
    • People who are newer to the organization or in entry level positions;
    • People who have been your past allies
    • And even people who have been your past enemies. Your differences can work in your favor.

Getting good at office politics makes it all seem less scary. [Related: Do’s and Don’ts of Office Politics]. Office politics are here to stay and effectively managing them means striking the balance between building positive relationships, advocating for your own interests and keeping ethics at the forefront of every decision.

Want one-on-one coaching to better navigate office politics in your workplace or need an expert on leadership to speak to your colleagues? Hire Art.

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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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