How to Find Advantage in Office Politics

What seems like weakness may be advantage.

Your manager’s obsession with the opinion of upper management may drive you crazy. But political skill is one reason they earned their position. Perhaps you should become better at office politics.

I’m not encouraging dishonesty, backstabbing, or disadvantaging others for personal advantage. But learning to play office politics ethically serves you and your team well.

Political aptitude is necessary in all organizations, even if it means you know that straight-shooting is the way to get ahead.

Unethical office politics:

Unethical office politics motivates leaders to worry too much about their own careers and too little about organizational advantage. 

7 signs office politics has gone bad:

  1. Managers avoid or delegate tough decisions.
  2. Leaders take too long to make easy decisions.
  3. Feedback is tempered to protect status, position, and ego. (This may be the most pervasive form of office politics.)
  4. Innovative ideas are watered down to appease power players.
  5. Conflict goes underground.
  6. Making people look bad is intentional sport.
  7. Projects stall while people navigate relationship and appease power players.

No one wants you on their team if you don’t have enough ego to believe you can make a difference and enough drive to care about getting ahead.

Ethical office politics:

If leaders seem too worried about higher ups, dig into their concerns.

  1. Who needs to know?
  2. Who needs to be involved?
  3. Whose approval matters most? (Regardless of their title.)
  4. What matters most to people in power positions?

Polish solutions:

Answer political concerns in highly political environments.

The main advantage of digging into concerns is polishing the solution. It’s hard work, but you advance yourself and advantage your organization when you play office politics ethically.

Tip: A low or no cost pilot program may be a useful option in highly political organizations.

How might office politics be played ethically?