Office politics are a fact of life — it’s human nature and basic sociology to have power dynamics within a group. Despite the negative association, however, office politics don’t have to be cutthroat! Making and using workplace connections to get things done, secure the resources your team needs, and gain visibility for your contributions isn't a bad thing, and oftentimes, it's just plain necessary for advancing your career.
Below, our 13 tips for winning at office politics without turning into this guy:
Dos and Don'ts of Winning Office Politics
1. Don't: Pretend office politics don't exist or affect you.
Rather not get involved in office politics at all? You're certainly not alone. But burying your head in the sand (or snow) only puts you at the mercy of people who are willing to use office politics to further their ends. Remember that engaging in office politics doesn't necessarily mean selling your soul: the ability to see what motivates others andpositively influence them are also key traits of a good leader, and skills you should be actively trying to develop.
2. Do: Forget the official org chart — how do things really work?
Take the org chart and redo it according to how you see the company actually working. Who has influence and well-respected opinions? Who mentors or supports whom? Who’s doing valuable work that’s not getting proper recognition? Once you understand the behind-the-scenes, you can start making connections that will yield positive results.
3. Do: Make note of social networks.
Who eats lunch together? Who asks whom for help? How do different departments socialize? Make your own relationships with a wide variety of people across multiple departments, especially those you wouldn't ordinarily interact with on a daily basis. Just choose to befriend people you genuinely like and respect — don’t be fake or rely on empty flattery.
Remember, it’s not just the power players that have valuable support to give; the goodwill and respect of average employees goes a long way, especially when it's time for promotions or assigning team leaders.
4. Don't: Spread gossip or rumors.
It’ll come back to bite you. Nobody's perfect, and sooner or later you'll make a mistake you'd rather not have spread through the company by vindictive colleagues who are happy to watch you flounder.
5. Do: Use your network for the greater good.
Use your connections to gain visibility for your team’s overlooked achievements, attract opportunities to excel, address widespread problems that have gone unnoticed, and contribute to improving the company overall.
6. Don't: Fail to think ahead.
Odds are, you've been tempted to fire off an angry email reply or make a flippant remark at some point in your dealings with others. Before you act on impulse, watch the situation play out in your head all the way through to the end. Does it turn out the way you’d like? Taking a beat and considering the consequences will help you check any impulse reactions that could backfire big time.
7. Do: Contribute to overarching objectives, instead of just focusing on personal goals.
Never say, “That’s not in my job description,” or, "This isn't my responsibility." Keep the organization’s interests top of mind, instead of putting your own self-interest above that of your team or the company as a whole. If the business is struggling, you're not going to succeed either. Besides, if someone asks for your input, it’s for a reason — they think you have something valuable to contribute, or it’s crunch time and they need all the help they can get.
8. Do: Pay attention to those with informal power.
Get to know those people you see as influencers: they may not be a C-level executive, but when they speak, people listen. Ask for their advice and opinions, observe their habits and how they interact with others, and learn everything you can from them.
9. Don't: Get sucked into other people’s problems and arguments.
Office politics can quickly devolve into the kind of drama and backstabbing you haven't seen since high school. Learn how to gracefully bow out of toxic situations, pick battles that really matter, and recognize what you can control — and what you can't.
10. Do: Learn to make allies.
When you're at odds with a colleague, look past “Me vs. You” to “How can we make this a win-win?” Examine the situation from the other person's perspective and try to see what their motivation and goals are — or simply sit down with them to discuss how you can work together. Take the opportunity to turn a possible adversary into an ally.
11. Don't: Make disagreements personal.
You’re going to disagree or butt heads with someone somewhere along the line — it’s inevitable. Just keep it professional, deal with them directly and openly, and focus on the objective facts instead of devolving into personal attacks or insults. Remember, your goal is to create allies, not enemies. And even if your work results are undeniable, you’ll have a hard time getting promoted if it's well known that you're difficult to work with.
12. Do: Stay focused on the end goal, especially in the midst of conflict.
By redirecting everyone’s focus to the organization’s best interests and goals, you’ll develop a reputation as someone who can transcend petty interpersonal squabbles and just get sh*t done.
13. Don't: Be an office zombie.
People are people! Show warmth and personality. Look for opportunities to help others and show gratitude to those who help you. Stay late to help a colleague, remember to thank someone who shared a helpful tip, get two coffees during your morning stop and offer the extra to someone who could use a pick-me-up. They'll remember, and you can never have too many people speaking well of you.
Don't be a Leader from Hell!
Watch our video to learn from classic management mistakes and keep your team happy and productive.
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