Office Politics: Do You Know How to Play Them?

Office politics

Office politics often forms an undeniable part of work life. And as HR professionals you have to understand the dynamics that drive this. It’s argued that professionals too have to play the game to build their weightage in the organization. And this perhaps just to build reputation, influence outcomes & create business impact. After all, HR can play a vital role in steering a company’s strategy—if you can get execs to see you as someone who does more than just “the people stuff”!

“These are things I hear in my leadership programs. Are these the types of comments you might make as well? Whether you hate it, admire it, practice it or avoid it, office politics is a fact of life!” – Marcia Zidle

And, like it or not, it’s something that you must understand to be successful no matter what business or organization you work in.

Good vs Bad Politics
Office politics can be defined as the strategies that people use to gain advantage personally or for a cause they support.

The term often has a negative connotation because some people use it to seek advantage at the expense of others. Good “office politics”, on the other hand, helps you to promote yourself and your cause in a fair and appropriate way.

Why It’s Important
If you deny the bad politics that may be going on around you and avoid dealing with them, you may needlessly suffer while others take unfair advantage. And, if you avoid practicing good politics, you miss the opportunities to further your own interests and those of your team and your cause.

Making Politics Work For You
To deal effectively with office politics and use it in a positive way, you must first accept the reality of it. Second you need to be a good observer. Third you then bring into play the information you gathered to build strong networks and to start influencing others – which is what good politics is about. Here are strategies to get started.

  1. Re-map the organization chart
    Office politics often circumvents the formal organization chart. Sit back and watch for a while and then re-map the organization chart in terms of political power.
  • Who are the real influencers?
  • Who is the “go to guy” when things need to get done?
  • Who champions or mentors others?
  • Who is “the brains behind the organization”?
  1. Understand the informal network
    Once you know who’s who in the organization, you have a good idea of where the power and influence lay. Now you have to understand the social networks.
  • Who gets along with whom?
  • Who eats together? Works out together? Commutes together?
  • Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
  • What is the basis or commonality for the groups or cliques?
  1. Build strong relationships
    Now that you know how the existing relationships work, start building your own social network accordingly.
  • Do not be afraid of politically powerful people in the organization. Get to know them.
  • Ensure you have relationships in all directions (peers, bosses, executives)”
  • Be a part of multiple networks. This way you can keep your finger on the pulse of the organization.

Smart Moves Tip To Play Your Best Game

Office politics are a fact of life. Positive or negative politics happens. If you don’t participate in the political game, you risk not having a say in what happens to you and perhaps your team. This allows people with less experience, skill or knowledge to influence decisions being made around you and about you.

What’s your experience with office politics? Comments are welcome.

Did You Know That a New Kind of SMARTS is Needed?

75% of leaders are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including inability to handle interpersonal problems, unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict; or inability to adapt to change or elicit trust. – Center for Creative Leadership.

Do you want to power up your emotional and social intelligence and be a more effective leader?  Let me help you do it! Marcia is a Board Certified Executive Coach, who works with small to medium size enterprises, entrepreneurial ventures, and NGO’s to grow their organizations AND make a difference in their world. 

Editor’s note: The original blog contained the following note – ‘This article is reprinted with permission of the author. In her AudioSolutionz webinar “HR Influence: Build Your Reputation, Personal Power & Business Impact,” Zidle teaches HR pros why  “power,” “politics,” and “persuasion” are not bad words—and that playing the game right means understanding how to get your deserved seat at the table.’

(This post first appeared in a ProfEd blog)

By Marcia Z on 24th January 2019

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