Six Secrets to Winning at Office Politics

The most qualified people don’t always get the most done or earn the best promotions. We all know someone who got promoted because they knew the right person.

Being great at your job is essential, but not enough.

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Being good at office politics is being good with people, without manipulation and deception.

Ethical office politics is influencing people through relationships. Leadership is relationships.

Whisper campaigns:

Karin Hurt uses the expression, “whisper campaign,” to refer to influence through relationships. Whispering is often more effective than pressuring and shouting. Rather than barging in through the CEO’s front door, slip in quietly, through the side.

Why be subtle? Karin Hurt in her own words (0:23) : 

Influence isn’t pressuring people. Pressure creates barriers and resistance. Everyone wants the freedom to make up their own mind, not be pressured into conformity.

Influence is subtle, but not malicious.


Maximize influence by involving diverse people, departments, and perspectives. If you’re in marketing, get the finance person on board.

You lose influence if you and your team are the only ones speaking for your project.

Karin hurt on getting the finance person on board (1:29): 

Six secrets to winning at office politics:

  1. Relationship first. Build real relationships with people of influence before you need them.
  2. Check your motives. Always work for the good of your organization.
  3. Involve people with divergent perspectives. Include HR, finance, and marketing, for example.
  4. Don’t gang up on someone.
  5. Help others win. Don’t expect others to keep helping you if you aren’t helping them.
  6. Be transparent and vulnerable with the right people.

(Adapted from my conversation with Karin Hurt.)


Transparency and vulnerability influence better than pressure and coercion.

Let people know your goals and concerns. Karin using vulnerable language (0:09): 

Karin’s book: “Overcoming an Imperfect Boss.”

Bonus audio, “Getting the finance person on your team,” (1:32): 

How can leaders create and execute effective “whisper campaigns.”