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How to Improve Your Skills at Office Politics

The world is full of people who think they are going to get ahead by putting their head down and doing their work. It’s a myth that good work makes a good career. Really, good office politics makes a good career.

But why is everyone so pissy about office politics? You know who is good at office politics, people with empathy, people who are great time managers, and people who see themselves as part of a team. Which means, of course, that you should get good at office politics, because the people who are bad at it have dead-end careers, and spend their lives whining about how it’s not fair because they are so good at doing their work.

But then, you need to actually help someone. This mean that after you’ve spent all that extra time getting to know someone else’s situation, you need to spend more extra time doing some work to help that person. Maybe it’s staying late with them to get something done. Maybe it’s negotiating something for them because they are bad at negotiating. It could be anything, really, but it takes time to help someone.

In order to get extra time to do all this, you need to be so dedicated to helping people that you need to do your own work extra efficiently to make time to be nice. What a lovely workplace, right? Where everyone is nice to each other? Great. You can start that right now by getting a better attitude about office politics.

What does this mean for you? Stop saying that you don’t have time for office politics. Because office politics is really about being likable, and the best way to look competent at work is not to do good work as much as to be likable. So let some of the details go, get rid of your perfectionist tendencies, (which will probably eventually make you a depressive anyway) and start wandering around your office getting to know people.

A great test of your emotional intelligence is looking at the range of people you get along with. Strong emotional intelligence means you can get along with almost anyone. So instead of complaining about being shut out of the political arena at your office, figure out how to get along with people who don’t like you – by understanding what motivates them.

Written for Dumb Little Man by Penelope Trunk. Penelope is a columnist for the Boston Globe and Yahoo Finance. She also maintains a great blog named Brazen Careerist.

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