Office politics bring to mind brown-nosing, cronyism, conflicting personalities and general conniving and unnecessary drama.
But politics are a part of any organizational structure. How to negotiate a hierarchy, make your ideas heard and your accomplishments known are activities at the heart of what it means to “play politics.” While there are many instances where politics can turn toxic, they’re also a practical way to get things done and promote the change needed to drive a company forward.
How to ethically participate in politics
Say you have some influence where you work and power to make some decisions. Whatever cards you hold, you probably need more allies and/or more resources than you have to realize your vision on the scale you envision it.
There are going to be others in the organization who must be accommodated, negotiated with, befriended and perhaps even outwitted if your plans are to succeed. If these other players are not engaged, you will not achieve your objective.
In short, you need to be political. To succeed at this political game, keep these three steps in mind.
Step 1: Shift your attitude
The first step is to recognize that human beings are involved, which can be messy.
If you are master of the subject matter, you may feel your expertise should be sufficient for your project to succeed. But that’s only half the story. You also have to know how to handle the many human factors involved in bringing your objective to life.
This can involve sharing information, negotiating, sharing credit, delaying, accelerating or practicing avoidance. The takeaway here is to exercise patience, anticipate reactions and focus more on people than on your great idea.
Step 2: Lay the groundwork
The currency needed to succeed in politics is relationships.
Having a relationship with others who are interested in what you and your department are doing can make the difference between success and failure.
Many of these people can be trusted allies and act as a sounding board for new ideas in developing strategies for furthering the initiatives you think are important.
Why should people be drawn to you? In a corporate environment, where people are working to achieve, people form relationships because of the advantages they see you might bring to them. You may have knowledge they need or a position or resources. Perhaps you have relationships they see as important, or access to someone with influence. These are the sources of power, and being aware of these factors will be useful as you develop important relationships.
Step 3: Practice good politics
When you have an objective in mind, this is the point when you will want to engage your allies. Be prepared and have command of your facts and ideas when you are ready to seek their suggestions.
Pay attention to how people are or are not interested in supporting your project. While building your networks and alliances, keep these points in mind:
- Give credit where credit is due.
- Document the work you do.
- Send notes confirming discussions; this avoids misunderstandings and provides a paper trail.
- Avoid unnecessary interactions with people you don’t trust.
For more helpful insights on how to navigate situations in and out of the workplace, be sure to check out the many resources offered by GetFive.