There is no escaping the fact that the political race is on! Regardless of which side you are on, it’s the candidates, and their infantile behavior, that give politics a bad name. Between the backstabbing, the lying, the name-calling, and the aggressive finger-pointing, it’s not a big mystery why so many people (especially women) try to avoid office politics like the plague.
The problem is that most people think of office politics in such a negative way, they decide not to play the game at all…Well, if you’re not playing the game someone else is playing it for you. Not playing is not an option, because more careers have been ruined by poor “politics” than poor “performance”.
It’s unrealistic and naïve to think that you can just show up at work every day, do a great job, and never encounter any office politics. At some point, you’ll experience a disagreement, an incompatible communication style, an unpleasant personality type, favoritism, competition, or gossip. It’s going to happen…but, it’s how prepared you are and how you handle those situations that will make or break your career.
You need a plan of action!
Whether you’re running for President or working in an office, politics is nothing more than having a goal and strategically finding ways to achieve that goal. This also includes leveraging relationships and persuading people to support you, believe in you, defend you, and follow you. The good news is that this can be accomplished without the stereotypical mud-slinging and bombastic confrontations. The bad news is that few people ever learn how to successfully, and authentically, navigate office politics with positive results.
Here are the top 10 “Do’s and Don’ts” so you can play office politics better than the politicians.
Top 10 “Do’s”:
- Get a Goal – know where you’re going and what you’re trying to achieve
- Stay True to Your Core Values – they operate as a moral compass and help to keep you on track
- Set Boundaries – know your limits, what you will and won’t do, and where you will and won’t compromise…you always have a choice
- Build a Network – create a cross-functional community, a tribe of support, and a circle of influence filled with advocates, allies, cheerleaders, and champions
- Think Win-Win – look for ways to create a win-win situation and outcome whenever possible
- Identify Key Players – identify the key influencers and saboteurs in the office
- Increase Your Visibility – people literally need to see you, hear you, and know what you do
- Find a Mentor – a mentor can provide insights and inside information, and can offer helpful advice to successfully navigate challenging personalities and situations
- Increase Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – learn how to stay calm and control your emotions so you’re not easily triggered by someone else’s words or actions
- Be Authentic – find a way to play the game and be true to yourself at the same time
Top 10 “Don’ts”:
- Don’t Gossip – don’t spread or start rumors, but always know what’s being said…you never want to be the last to know
- Don’t Internalize – don’t take anything personally until you know otherwise
- Don’t Over-Trust – don’t continuously let someone off the hook or give them the benefit of the doubt repeatedly if they don’t deserve it…remember the three strikes and you’re out rule
- Don’t React – don’t speak before you think, forget your filter and react impulsively…remember the 24-hour rule and sleep on it
- Don’t Assume – don’t jump to conclusions and make assumptions, instead seek to understand
- Don’t Choose – don’t undermine yourself by taking sides, and know that neutrality can be a powerful position…think Switzerland
- Don’t Deny or Rationalize – don’t minimize that little voice of intuition and gut feeling by creating an alternate reality and ignoring obvious signs of change, conflict, or chaos
- Don’t Downplay – don’t downplay, dismiss, or diminish your accomplishments and start tooting your own horn loud and proud
- Don’t Instigate or Avoid – don’t look for battles or fight every battle, but don’t avoid conflict if it needs to be addressed and resolved
- Don’t Give Up – don’t allow someone else to use or manipulate you to further their own agenda, stand your ground, and stick up for yourself
You have the power to use office politics to your advantage, but in a positive way you can feel proud of…and certainly in a way that’s better than the politicians. Sometimes it’s just a matter of increasing your awareness, taking a look around, and thinking about the dynamics that exist in your workplace. You don’t need to run for office to run your career like a pro. Embrace office politics and take control of your career, and you never know which office you’ll end up in.