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Advice On How To Navigate Office Politics

“Office politics” are an inevitable fact of business life.  Whether you hate it, like it, practice it, or seek to avoid it, politics in an organization are a fact of life in business.  As much as you may not like it, “office politics” are something you need to understand and learn how to navigate if you wish to ensure your career success. 

“Office politics” are generally are viewed with a negative connotation but they need not to be negative. 

“Office politics” are actually strategies people employ to gain support for their objectives, goals, or their own recognition for their contribution. When used in a positive sense, “office politics” are actually the life blood of building and improving business and professional relationships.  Only when they are practiced or implemented at the expense of others are they negative or only self-serving.  Another way to view them is to consider them as networking and management of stakeholders.

Many, because of the negative connotation tend to avoid, or pretend do not exist to their own detriment.  In order to truly be successful, one must learn how to navigate the politics in their organization with a positive goal in mind to ensure their success.  If you avoid learning how to use the political structure in a positive manner, you are very likely to be missing a strong opportunity to further your goals and objectives and those of your team and co-workers.

Making “Office Politics” work for you.

First you must learn to accept the reality and inevitability of it and turn them into opportunities to gather information and observe the behavior of others to help you in building your network within the organization.

Build the political organization chart.  Determine who wields the most influence.  Who are the power brokers, who are the mentors and who are really respected within the organization?

Carefully view the internal relationships between others to determine who gets along with whom and who have formed cliques or special networks.  Who are the constant whiners and complainers or the ones who typically have difficulty getting along?  How does influence and power flow through the various groups?

Executive coaching can provide an outside/objective insight on how to effectively outline all of the political alliances and relationships.

Discover your base and build your relationships and networks.

Ensure you have relationships that cross the hierarchical structure and include executives, bosses, subordinates, peers alike.

Build your relationships on mutual respect, trust, dignity, and integrity.  Be genuine.  Try to avoid becoming a member of a specific clique and try to outgoing with everyone.  Don’t avoid the politically powerful people in your organization but get to know them and practice your relationship building skills with them.

Build your brand.

Be willing to become a “go to” person who develops the reputation for being a good listener with a “can do” attitude who is always willing to help and go the extra mile.

Become known as one who works hard to not get involved in office gossip and one who works very hard to maintain a neutral position until you are sure of the value, direction, and consequences of your actions, words, and behavior.

Don’t allow yourself to get involved in others interpersonal conflicts or bickering.

Be a role model of confidence and positivism. 

Do not rely on “confidentiality” in your communications.  You should always assume that what you say in confidence is still likely to be disclosed to someone, somewhere.

Above all, be a model of integrity with all of whom you deal.  You will quickly build a strong personal brand as someone to be respected, trusted, and who can wield a great deal of influence.

John Richardson is a Vice President - Senior Consultant with The Frontier Group with over 35 years of senior human resource management experience. John routinely coaches executives on how to grow their organizations and themselves.