10 Ways to Win at Office Politics
Lack of leadership invites backstabbing, gossip, sabotage, game-playing, and foot-dragging. But, don’t expect a savior on a white horse to rescue you after you’ve been stabbed in the back.
Getting even with the person who made you look bad makes you look bad. Respond in ways that you would brag to mom about.
You look fearful, weak, vindictive, angry, and defensive when you respond negatively to negative office politics.
You lose if you can’t deal with office politics.
Judge your motives and behaviors by two questions. Does this intention reflect who I want to be? And, am I acting in the best interests of my organization?
Winning at office politics:
- Don’t expect the boss to intervene. Most bosses let politics play out.
- Don’t get involved in office turmoil.
- Don’t share office gossip.
- Don’t complain about colleagues. Use the “in the room” rule. Imagine the person you are talking about is in the room.
- Don’t choose sides between two power people in the office. Make choices based on what’s best for your organization not a faction.
- Don’t advocate for your idea until others feel you understand theirs. Make people feel heard rather than argued with.
- Focus on delivering great results.
- Define the win.
- Help others win while you win.
- Build relationships across the organization. The person you’re counting on may be gone tomorrow.
What not who:
Understand the difference between making others look bad for personal advantage and building alliances that get things done. The difference is between “who” and “what.”
Bill Brandt, author of Compass, explains how good leadership helps eliminate unhealthy office politics. In his own words (1:27):
Leadership is pivotal to controlling office politics.
Leave a comment on Larry Putterman’s blog to win one of five free copies of Bill Brandt’s new book, Compass.
What strategies minimize the negative impact of office politics?
Great post Dan!!
Out of the park today thanks!!
I love 6 and 7 most!!!
Thanks great stuff today
Have a good one
Thanks Scott. Have a great day.
I have to agree with Scott on this one Dan. Out of the park!
One of my other favorite writers (Adam M Grant) would disagree with some of your points to a certain degree. He explains in the post “Why I Gossip at Work (And You Should Too)” that “takers” (think Kenneth Lay of Enron infamy for extreme example) can be identified by workers spreading news about their bad tendencies/behaviors to warn others.
Of course, it’s always better to do this in a mature and factual manner and be the better person by also confronting that person about the negative repercussions of their behavior. Though if that negative person has “burned” others in the past who have tried to discuss it, why try again?
It’s always fun to dance around a topic from multiple angers. I’m thankful you extended the conversation.
My preference on people who have burned others multiple times is to see their butt’s burned when they hit the pavement without a job. But that’s back to a leadership issue. We have to be realistic.
I wonder how Adam Grant feels about being transparent with the person he is “gossiping” about?
Dito Dan. I find it difficult to think of little if any positive impact that can come from gossip. I once had a Pastor who applied a unique approach to gossp, “if you came to Roger with an issue involving another that you felt needed addressed, he did so ONLY with the accussed and the accuser present simutaneously”. It was always amazing to see folks ‘back-step’ away from alil face to face time… Cheers Dan
That’s great advice. I’ve used it in the past and, yes, it works wonders.
This is really much prevalent practices at workplace. Working hard, keeping silent and being honest do not work many times. Talkative people, making relations with key people and spreading distorted information work many times in a culture imbedded with politics.There are many ways to deal with office politics. One way to make good relationship with the person engaged in and look for suggestion. Do not share anything that can be issues to him and do not criticize the person. Other way is to focus on your deadlines, delivering results, communication, and interaction with many people especially with management or superior. Communication and interaction minimize the risk of getting caught into politics or being discussed.
I also believe that people should not pay attention or support to people engaged into politics. As a manager or superior, I would like to give them tough task with near deadlines. I would make sure that they are engaged into work and do not find time to engage into politics.
Politics at workplace is sure indication of unfair distribution of work, and some people have enough spare time to engage into such activities. Person prone to be victim of politics should create good perception about self. Managers should create intangible reward mechanism in place that can recognize people based on their authenticity, disseminating knowledge, right information etc. This practice can minimize or discourage the politics at workplace.
I especially enjoy your comments on office politics. For me, one of your most useful ideas is to identify office politicians and give them tough tasks with short deadlines. Make them perform.
Well said. Oraganizations have to realize that office politics exists and create policies (indirectly) to minimize them. Managers/Supervisors/Leaders should not ignore this but at the same time they are not to be left to handle them. If HR team comes up with strict policies that indirectly discourages office politics habits, it is good for the company and the people in the long run and everyone will be productive instead of destructive.
I have a bit of a fatalist attitude when it comes to winning at office politics. I don’t believe anyone wins; and we are all put in the position of being lessened by having to play office politics as a win-lose proposition. At best, I think we can “succeed” at office politics . . . succeed by understanding the players, the motivations, the power positions, and the values of the outcomes; and knowing when to “play” and when to mind our own busines. Then acting based on that understanding and knowledge with great circumspection.
Nice use of language. “succeed at” I like it. “Winning” suggest losers.
If we think of office politics as building relationships and advocating ethically it takes on a positive tone. I really like Bill Brandt’s focus on “what” vs. “who.”
It’s the cold-hearted people who intentionally make others look bad so they can look good that are so disappointing.
I left my job as controller to set up my own practice (CPA) . I had 6 women and 1 man reporting to me (number varied). I did not tolerate the back stabbing and ganging up on one employee.By the way, the guy was great & no problem. Office politics is just the grade school version of bullying. And, I guarantee you, it is the same players. I called employees on their bad behavior. Fast forward a few months and the person who became in charge by default is very non-confrontational. I know things have gotten terrible at that office with the back stabbing and ganging up. Your comment Dan about the cause as a lack of leadership is the most insightful one I have heard yet. Thanks.
Adding the term “bullying” to this conversation turns a light on. Great add.
I’ve seen the “hands off” leadership style go too far when it comes to office politics. I’ve also seen that strong leadership uncomvers the bullies and honors real performers.
Ah, Dan, one of my favorite topics – office politics! Great post, as usual. I would add another action step to your list: “don’t automatically attribute bad intent to the person doing the ‘politicking’.” Tying into your #9 – the way you get to win-win is to understand *why* somebody behaved badly (Do they fear loss of control? Are they worried they’ll lose face?). This doesn’t excuse the bad behavior, but it does help you figure out how to navigate the situation.
Optimism is an essential leadership attribute. You bring it to this discussion. You speak to the question of, “What’s a win” and “What’s important to others”
I agree, Jennifer. It’s always best to talk to the person and address the facts and not the emotion of the situation. It’s not an excuse for bad behaviour, and sometimes the person isn’t even aware of how they’re being perceived
Dan – Great post. Building relationships across the organization is a key point. This not only helps as people leave but it helps in your day to day job, networking and expanding your contacts. I have even tried to build relationships cross functionally to learn more about another area. People know people. You will find out it’s a small world and building relationships is a key component to navigating office politics.
I’m glad you’re highlighting this area. On more than one occasion, I”ve had leaders tell me they wish they would have built relationships across the organization. When it comes to “politics” either good or bad, waiting to build relationships until you need them is too late.
Building relationships across the company also creates new opportunities that will help expand your career path or take you out of a narrow one.
Excellent post Dan.
BTW… I really like your avatar. 🙂
I like 3 and 4 I hate, hate office politics, This is great I think that at all offices it would benefit them to pass this out. Have it read then signed.
The “In the room rule” really impacts the content and tone of what I say.
Great post Dan.
I always called gossip the “cancer” of an organization or a team. You need to rid the cancer before it spreads and effects everything. I had a great mentor 20 years ago, back when I was in my early 20s and just starting to step into a Leadership role and he taught me a very valuable saying and I still use it religiously to this day. He said, “It’s your job as a Leader to create an environment where all that you Lead can succeed. If an unhealthy environment keeps people from succeeding, it’s YOUR fault. Own it!” Gossip creates a very unhealthy environment, and I don’t give it a second to go on. By doing so, my teams have always flourished and most have always found great opportunities because I created a workplace where they can focus on building their Leadership traits and not be sidetracked by crazy office/team politics. To this day, I still hold some of the lowest turnover rates in the couple of companies I have worked for. People enjoy working for me because I take away a lot of roadblocks that can halt growth and success. I find it an honor for people that are willing to follow me and help me grow and succeed, the least I can do is make sure that they don’t need to battle the “cancer” some rotten apples can spread.
Great info, thank you! The best advise I’ve ever been told is….
Staff your weaknesses!
Why, oh why, didn’t you write this post 10 years earlier? I was once told that I would have been much more successful if I had been great at office politics. So what do I do? Build a great career, or stay true to my soul?
one method I have seen work is:
build goodwill in advance
never get rude in public, save that for private meetings
go for the win/win
don’t fight battles you can’t win, it just burns goodwill
What if the backstabbing, gossip and game -playing is from the leadership…? And where is this leadership reside?
I appreciate your response and approach to building leadership at all levels…with that in place it is difficult for…unproductive behavior to gain root.
Been following this blog for quite some time and cannot recall if I’ve ever left a comment. But this post is out of the ball park, more like a home run for me. I love it and will apply it into my workplace and hopefully get the winning results.
Reblogged this on Movers, Shakers, Leadership Makers.