Master Office Politics and Tame the Beast

By admin ~ December 18th, 2010 @ 6:53 am

Office politics is a subject much maligned by people who ironically need to understand it the most. They denounce it, boast that they never engage in it and then proclaim themselves victims when they run awry of it.? Like in Aesop’s fables, where the beast invariably hurts those who naively fail to take into account its basic nature, people who think the organizational politics beast can simply be avoided will eventually get hurt by this careless approach.? Far better to study it, understand it, predict it, tame it and harness its power.

Becoming politically savvy, where you easily recognize political situations and quickly formulate brilliant strategies doesn’t occur by reading one article.? It can be a career long process.? But this can get you started on the path to taming the beast and making it work for you.

First, you have to accept that the abilities, strategies and set of behaviors commonly called office politics, exists anywhere and everywhere you will work.? It can show only occasionally in some places and be a factor of daily life in others. It can be out in the open and easy to read, or covertly hiding behind mission and value statements proclaiming its nonexistence. But you will eventually have to deal with it, especially as you begin the climb up to the levels where you are expected to influence people over whom you have no authority and to make strategically sound decisions.

Office politics is a ubiquitous aspect of human nature; it is woven into the fabric of every organization where power, influence and conflict intersect, be it in large and weighty matters or in small and petty concerns.? It is the struggle for the why, who and the way: or the goals, the players and the plays.? No wonder it is often referred to as The Game.? And, as in any game, the more you can avoid taking the processes and outcomes personally, the better you will be able to strategize and play well, and to recover quickly when you’ve played poorly.?

Political savvy is often the missing attribute in people who get passed over for positions for which they are at least technically qualified.? But savvy is rarely discussed let alone taught in typical training programs.? Some people are born with it, some develop it and some never seem to be able to grasp it. The latter often get the career stagnating “big but” reputation: as in, “Joe is so smart, or nice, or works so hard…but” with the “but” never adequately described.

Getting savvy may have to be self-initiated. You will need role models, people who operate effectively within the system no matter their level. You will pay close attention, noticing their choice of behaviors; ones that smooth the way and the ones that get in the way.? You will note who they are connected to, from whom can they get assistance and who they seem to ignore or only slightly acknowledge.? You will find what rewarded attributes they have in common despite the differences in their personalities, positions and power.

Then, you will find yourself a coach or a mentor or two inside or out of your organization; someone who can shorten your learning curve helping you accurately assess your current standing and your weaknesses and strengths.? They will guide you in forming useful alliances, getting the right kind of attention and deciphering your organization’s unwritten rules.

Next, you will begin to notice and take advantage all the avenues for sharpening your political skills: joining organizations where you can practice “out of town,” books, training courses and seminars, and even watching the political news on TV where the pundits explain the ins and outs of national politics, which just the same, albeit bigger, game then the one in your office.

Finally, you will start to “get it,” trusting an internal antenna that alerts you to political moments or situations, and allowing you to choose just the right strategies for your goals.? As you fine tune your abilities, you will discover that office politics isn’t such a beast after all.
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