Some people love it and some people despise it – no matter what your feelings on office politics are, playing the political game is often seen as crucial to long term career success. Simply understanding how things work politically around your office and observing your behaviour and that of your co-workers can help you to get ahead. Learning how power and influence is managed within your company will help you survive and thrive in today’s highly competitive job market. And while the words ‘office politics’ often carry negative connotations – it is not necessarily always the case. It can be a positive experience as well – it’s all about opportunities to further your career. Here are a few tips.
1. Know your value and make sure others do too – let people know about your achievements and successes. In order to thrive and win the political game, you need to be able to demonstrate specialist expertise and the value you bring to an organisation. Let others know what you have achieved but be careful not to come across as brash – and never take too much credit for teamwork you participated in. Always make sure your team mates are given credit also.
2. Get to know your colleagues – it’s important to understand the people you work for (and with). If you understand people’s personal motivations and aspirations, you will be able to get along with them better, as well as being able to better meet their needs. This takes time and effort to listen and observe behaviour. Most people just want to be heard, so if you can invest some time in listening, you will start to be rewarded.
3. Understand where the power lies – it is not necessarily always the most senior person who wields the most power. Influencers come in many forms and those with authority and power often don’t use it as well as they should. Take some time to work out where the power is – look at individuals who are highly respected, those that mentor others, or the people who really are the brains behind high profile projects and successes.
4. Become a confidante – once you know who wields the power, you need to start developing relationships with them or the people around them. Again this takes time, so be a patient listener. Think outside of the box to offer creative responses or advice when asked and you will become a trusted confidante in no time at all.
5. Be nice – learn when, where and who to speak to. Assume that anything you say to anyone may be repeated. If what you say reaches the wrong ears the outcome could be disastrous. It goes without saying really, but never pass on gossip or spread rumours and always rise above personal conflicts – just don’t get involved. Maintain your professionalism and always act with the organisation’s best interests at heart.
6. Be positive – avoid complaining and whinging. Stand up for your opinions by all means, but when voicing an opinion or objection, be careful to present it from the organisation’s perspective – don’t make it personal. Don’t agree (or disagree) with negative people or questionable opinions – always maintain your integrity and professionalism.
Positive or negative – politics are a fact of life. By ignoring what’s going on around you, you risk not achieving the success you deserve. Learning to use the power of politics positively will help you get the best out of your career.