“There’s too much wrangling and maneuvering going on – I just hate this office politicking”. “Joe, well he’s a smart political mover – knows exactly how to get what he wants and how to get on.” Whether you hate it, admire it, practice it or avoid it, office politics is a fact of life in any organization. And, like it or not, it’s something that you need to understand and master to be sure of your own success.
Dr. Travis Bradberry on Linkedin wrote a great piece on how to win at office politics citing, office politics is an unavoidable element of human behavior—bring people together and the jockeying begins. A lot of the advice about how to handle office politics boils down to “just don’t play,” as if avoiding the political system in your office will protect you and your career. It won’t.
Mind Tools agrees with Bradberry that understanding the playing field rather than ‘not playing’ is the solution.
First, you need to learn the lay of the land. Whether you just started a new job or just realized that avoiding office politics is detrimental to your career, you have to begin by figuring out exactly what’s going on. Your office is full of allies and rivals, and, if you watch and listen closely, you can get a pretty good sense of who’s aligned with whom:
Who has lunch together?
Who gets invited to important meetings, and who doesn’t?
Who always seems to be the first to know about coming changes, and who always seems to be last to know?
What are the cultural hot buttons that get tempers boiling?
The answers to these questions define your political landscape. This doesn’t mean that you should choose a side—that would be counterproductive—but it’s smart to understand the rules and the players and their strategies before you jump into the fray. Otherwise, you could find yourself unintentionally caught up in a long, simmering rivalry.
The key to winning at office politics is to stop wishing it will go away and to start learning how to thrive in your workplace’s political environment. You don’t have to dive right into the seedy underbelly of office politics to win the game; you win by playing smart and knowing when and how it’s worth getting involved.
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