Five Ways to Master Office Politics

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Office politics is not a dirty word; you’ll go further if you can play.

Believing good work always speaks for itself is naïve. Sadly, many bosses rise to authority because they understand and play dirty office politics.

Even in work cultures where bosses effectively deal with backstabbing, gossip, and office maneuvering, playing politics matters. If the right people don’t know about your performance, your performance doesn’t matter.

I’ve had more than one conversation with disenchanted professionals that were blind-sided by backstabbing and office gossip. Bosses don’t like getting involved. To make matters more interesting, office politicians are often talented high performers.

Five Strategies:

  1. Identify power brokers and don’t go against them unless you can clearly demonstrate its better for the company. Be for your organization not against them.
  2. Make people need you. Excel at something others need. It’s best if your contribution fills a gap someone else isn’t filling. That way you aren’t competing or challenging another’s performance.
  3. If you are the brunt of office politics, don’t tell your boss “they” are out to get you. Put organizational interests and reputation above your own. If need be, you could say, “A colleague undermined me to our clients.” But, don’t expect the higher ups to intervene because your feelings are hurt.
  4. Never defeat gossip with gossip.
  5. Never go toe-to-toe with a manipulator. I had one proudly tell me they could cut you in ways it took you days to realize it happened. By then, it’s too late.

Wake up call:

Constantly focus on:

  1. Relationship building.
  2. Building alliances.
  3. Loyalty to the team.

How do office politicians demonstrate useful skills even as they build themselves up at the expense of others?


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