Many people say they hate their job because they don’t like office politics. Not all office politics are bad and my assumption is that they don’t like is negative office politics, such as gossip or sabotage.
Politics in any organization exists, by definition, because it is made up of people; politics is unavoidable. To have a group of people without politics would require that all the people in the group not have any desire to meet their personal needs.Impossible.
So once you understand that politics within an office is unavoidable, instead of wasting your time “hating office politics,” why not, instead, learn the rules that will make it work for you?! Why not choose to use positive politics in a way that helps you and others? What follows are some guidelines that will help you benefit from office politics. And when you benefit, remember that it doesn’t mean that someone else has to lose. It’s only a zero-sum game if you approach it that way. It may sound cliche, but if you look for the win-win move,you’ll always come out ahead.
- Cozy Up to Detractors. This may sound counterintuitive, but it works. It’s in line with Sun-Tzu’s famous quote “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
If you find that someone is trying to sabotage you or doesn’t like you, seek them out. Befriend them genuinely. You may need to use a lot of charm and bring positive energy. Help them out with something important. Share a safe secret with them. It may be that they were scared or threatened by you. Show them that there is no need to fear you, that you have their back. Now you have one more ally and one less enemy. If you don’t trust them, don’t let them know that, just be careful with what you share with them.
- Don’t Gossip. Resist the urge at all costs to talk about others behind their backs unless it is to say something great about them! Gossip never does anyone any good. It brings you down. It shows others that you could gossip about them someday. You’ll always regret it.
- Always Be Positive About Others. When asked for feedback on coworkers, find only genuinely positive things to say. If your feedback is thin and soupy, people will be able to read between the lines. Leave that up to them. Stay positive.
- Play Dumb and Busy to Keep Out of Toxic Conversations. Find ways to neutrally bow out of gossip conversations.
- Coworker: “Did you notice Mary-Sue has been sucking up to the Boss-man lately? It’s sickening!”
- You: “I haven’t really noticed – I’ve been so buried in my projects lately! In fact, (look at watch) I just realized I promised a client I would call him right now. Gotta run.”
This way you are not taking sides. You’re the positive hard working team member. And most people will respect you for that, and hopefully more than a few will follow your lead. Don’t worry about people who don’t. You’re focused on the stars while they’re down in the mud. Just keep moving forward.
- If You Want People to Help You, Understand Their Needs First. If you want someone to scratch your back, you need to scratch theirs first. It’s pretty simple. First you need to know what is important to them. If you’re not sure, find out! Put your request in terms of how it will align with their goals. So, for instance, if you want the marketing department to highlight your team’s product, then you need to show the marketing department how doing that will help them with their number one goal. And, also, you should seek out the person who cares about this goal the most within that department.
- Before Engaging in Political Battle, Know How Much Power You Have. This is a somewhat subjective thing, but think of it like this: If you go to the mat on a particular issue, who is going to back you up and how? Call on them ahead of time to be sure about this. If you are new, still building your power base (allies), or rebuilding your base after a setback, then wait before waging any dramatic battles. Otherwise you’ll lose and look like a fool.
In choosing a battle it should align with company goals, be financially feasible, and doable given current resources. Once that is in place then build your grassroots support first before you launch your campaign. Don’t go onto the battlefield unless you know you have an army behind you.
- Grow Your Power Base Strategically Over Time. These are the people on whom you can count for support when you need to get things done. These are people who you will actively support along the way as well. Be friendly and kind to everyone. Don’t burn any bridges. Look for people who can become close allies. Look for people with whom you share values, that you trust, are hardworking, are smart about the actions they take, and who are honest.
- Work Hard, But Look for Ways to Partner with Others. Be on the lookout to help people in a way that creates a win for you and for them. Working with others makes things fun and can make difficult work easier.
- Don’t Look for Immediate Reciprocation. It will come over time. And don’t take things personally if someone you’ve supported can’t support you because of conflicting goals or rules they must adhere to. As in all things, just keep moving forward in a positive way, never lamenting the past. Learn from every experience for future success.
- Integrity: Be Positive, Be Kind, Be Honest, Be Realistic, Be Professional. Just do it. Don’t be sour grapes when you lose. Don’t backstab. Don’t be a snob. Don’t try force your company to save the world in a way that will make them lose money. It just won’t happen. Remember that it is business. It should be a little fun. Don’t take things personally. Always keep moving forward with a positive attitude.
This advice is not meant to stifle your passion or your integrity. There will be things you will want to take a stand on. Just think it through first. Be choosy and think about how you can make it win-win. Also, if your workplace is impossibly negative from the top down, then start looking for a healthier place to work. Just wait until you have the next job lined up before you leave. And when you do leave, don’t burn any bridges even if you want to. Don’t do it.
What are your rules for success when it comes to office politics? We’d love to hear your thoughts!