12 Strategies for Navigating Office Politics
Your work doesn’t always speak for itself. The most skilled don’t always earn the best promotions.
Think of office politics as connecting for mutual benefit.
Those skilled at the social game go further than those who aren’t. The higher you go, the more relationships matter.
12 strategies for navigating office politics:
- Don’t talk about your aspirations – do exceptional work. There’s a place to declare aspirations, it’s not with your colleagues.
- Discuss your aspirations occassionally with higher-ups, but spend most of your time exceeding expectations. Use terms like “earn” when seeking opportunities.
- Develop and utilize your skills for the advantage of others. Success at office politics isn’t about intentionally disadvantaging others. Give more value than you seek. If your boss feels bad when you ask for something, you’ve taken more out than you put in.
- Develop a reputation as a person who helps others and gets things done.
- Extend respect to everyone, especially power players, but don’t be a brown noser. Every office has a pecking order. It may be based on expertise, social skill, or longevity. Some are power players in one context and not another.
- Ask for help, insight, and suggestions. Succeeding at politics isn’t a one-way street.
- Stand up for your values, beliefs, and opinions, when it matters. Irritating jerks have opinions on everything.
- Stick to issues, not personalities.
- Seek positive solutions even when you disagree. Adversarial relationships are roadblocks.
- Discuss controversial topics in private.
- Imagine everything you say about others will get back to them.
- Use social collateral to advantage your team.
Neglect relationship-building to the disadvantage of your team and yourself. Connect with people before trying to get things done through people.
It’s essential to deliver great results. It’s naive to neglect relationships.
What tips might you offer for playing office politics?
Could you please help me understand what you mean by “Use terms like “earn”…”?
Thanks for asking, Laura. The idea is that we should expect to earn our opportunities, not ask for favors. I hope that helps. I’m glad you pointed out a confusing sentence. Cheers
That’s great. Thanks for the clarification.
The one suggestion gaining most of my interest: “Seek positive solutions even when you disagree. Adversarial relationships are roadblocks.” It should be soooo obvious; of course, you should identify AND ASSESS your thinking on any proposed effort and – in the spirit of seeking optimum positive impact – expressing in a supporting manner your concerns. But your and every team member’s obligation is to ALWAYS seek positive outcomes!!!
Thanks John. It’s great to read how you expand and express this idea. It should be self-evident. But, there is a dark side of office politics where people seek solutions that harm others and help themselves.
Thanks for jumping in.
A lot of people hate office politics, but I view them instead of ways to help everyone get better. Of the strategies mentioned I love the fact 1-4 are about how good you are at your job before you even engage in the rest of the strategies. The others deal a lot with the equivalent of a ‘No Jerks’ policy that a lot of companies have these days.
The only one that rubs me a little wrong is #12, “Use social collateral to advantage your team” – Great leadership will continue to remind themselves the company goals are more important than “their” team and sub-optimizing managers (for whatever reason) are the bane of company alignment.
Thanks Jeff. Live your insights.
I get your concern re: advantaging the team. I work under the assumption that the teams goal is to serve the company. Advantaging them is to advantage the org. But I get what you’re saying.
Hello Dan. I have to admit that I struggle with this one. Office politics is a tough one for me to deal with. I like to deal in facts and build strong relationships, but still run into the occasional instance where people that I trust do and say things about me or my team that come back around, and are typically very negative or completely miss-characterize the situation. When I ask for direct feedback, all is well. Then I hear that this same person went to their staff in another location and talked about how bad things were in our plant. Very frustrating, because they were supposed to be helping address the issues we were having.