When you hear the words “power” and “office politics” do you shudder and say “ewwwww”?
Unfortunately, these terms derive their bad connotation from self-centered workplace schmoozers interested only in their own careers. And, sometimes it takes awhile for those less-than-stellar traits to surface. Penelope Trunk, author of “The Brazen Careerist” writes:
People are hired for what they know and fired for who they are.
However, choosing not to play office politics can be a contributing factor in getting a pink slip or in not being promoted. How can that be?
Why applying the skills of office politics in a good way is a good thing
Office politics is a workplace reality. Here’s a simple rule of thumb about whether politics exist at your company.
First, count the number of employees at your organization. If that number is greater than two, then office politics is a factor.
In fact, anytime there are scarce resources, competing interests and ambiguity, office politics will exist. But that’s not always a bad thing.
Office politics is ”The Force” from the Star Wars movies: there’s a light (positive) side and a dark (negative) side. It gets its bad name from people who are manipulators, backstabbers and who play the “I win, you lose” game. However, when executed correctly from a win-win perspective, office politics relies on collaboration, sharing, relationships and networking.
Competent people do politics so competently that it looks like being nice. If you have political skill, you appear to not have it. ~Gerald Ferris, psychology and management professor at Florida State University
Opting out of office politics doesn’t serve your career well. Being an effective leader requires you to champion your agenda, be it getting assigned to a special project or getting a bigger budget, and that requires use of the positive side of office politics (collaboration, sharing, relationships and networking).
Using a win-win approach is a make-or-break skill for doing well at work. Research from the Chartered Management Institute found that 88 percent of managers claimed to have honed their knowledge of politics through workplace mistakes. It’s easy to avoid making blunders on the job by keeping a few simple practices in mind.
Win-win office politicking skills
Be open to hearing other points of view, even if you disagree. Allowing someone to voice their opinion and really listening to what they have to say strengthens a relationship. Working from a win-win viewpoint also helps to build allies.
Be a broker of ideas and information. Willingly share what you know. Giving (without focusing on what you may get in return) bolsters your reputation and facilitates building your network.
Pay attention. Understand who the informal leaders in your organization are — those individuals whose opinion is sought by others because it is so respected and not necessarily because of their job title. Tap into their knowledge and their circle of influence.
Always credit “we” not “me.”
Build connections. Having a strong, strategic network goes beyond passing out and collecting business cards. Build and maintain relationships that are mutually beneficial. Staying in touch can be simple: share articles or send congratulatory e-mails.
Be sincere, be authentic and smile. People like to work with those whom they genuinely like (the one competently playing the “light” side of office politics).