A Campbell’s Soup CEO on Office Politics

Office politicians make themselves look good while making others look bad.

“Create environments where people believe they will be honored,” Doug Conant.

I recall a meeting where an office politician made a member of the team look incompetent. They subtly pointed out a Director’s mistake – who wasn’t present – while demonstrating their own competence.

Three things office politicians do:

  1. They lie so you’ll let down your guard. They tell you everything is great while telling others about your failures.
  2. They elevate the value of their contribution while devaluing yours.
  3. They create tension between others. I remember being asked if I wanted my boss’s job while my boss was told I wanted her job.

When Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup asked, “How can I help?” I responded, “Let’s talk office politics.” He paused, began talking, and quickly found his rhythm.

10 tactics for facing office politics:

  1. Focus on Performance not politics. Playing politics is a slippery slope. Performance is more manageable.
  2. Be straight forward. Tell people what you are going to do.
  3. Tell others you delivered. Performance alone is not enough.
  4. Don’t participate in water-cooler conversations. Always talk about others as if they were in the room.
  5. Leaders may intervene but the best way to deal with office politics is by example, don’t participate.
  6. The danger of not participating is you are outside it.
  7. When it gets personal, leaders can have behind-closed-door conversations with offenders that refocus everyone on performance.
  8. Create environments where people believe they will be honored. Expect people to value the organizations agenda while the organization values theirs.
  9. Defeat office politics with honoring and performing.
  10. Understand it takes time to transform a highly political environment.

Doug explained he’d been in tough environments and that his first four strategies usually worked for him.

Which of Doug’s 10 observations do you find most useful?

Can you add an observation of your own?


Related post: How to Toot Your Own Horn


Check out Doug’s new book TouchPoints.