When looking for a new job, office politics is the last thing on our minds, so we tend to lose what, when working every day, becomes almost an afterthought. When working, we learn who
pulls the strings in the office, who to go to and who to stay away from. When going back to work, we need to get ‘back-in-the-groove’, so to speak in the office politics game.
Whether you hate it, admire it, practice it or avoid it, office politics is a fact of life in many organizations. And it's something you need to understand and master to be sure of your own success when re-entering the workforce.
Office politics is about knowing who really runs things in the office – it’s not always your supervisor - and who has the final word on policy, hiring and promotions.
In office politics, manipulation is the rule. This is where one or more of your co-workers use indirect means to achieve their goals at the expense of their associates and colleagues - sometimes read as ‘backstabbing’ or being
‘thrown under the bus’.
To help you succeed in office politics, here are some suggestions to level the office politics playing field:
Watch and Listen - Start by watching and listening to those who really run
things in the office:
• Who are the real power brokers?
• Who has authority but doesn't use it?
• Who is respected and who is not?
• Who supports, mentors or helps others?
• Who is ‘the brains behind the organization?’
Identify those people in the organization who use others for their own purposes or gain. Remember and apply this quote from the ancient Chinese general Sun-tzu:
"Keep your friends close and
your enemies closer."
Get to know these people and be courteous to them at all times. Be careful of what you say
or do with them; try and figure out their motives and goals, and either support them or keep undercover and away from them. In doing so, picture yourself nearing a rattlesnake and run as fast as you can from its rattle!
Manage Your Own Behavior - Through observation you'll learn what works in
your organization's culture and what doesn't. Watch other people and identify successful behaviors that you can model.
There are also some general standards to observe that will stop negative politics from spreading.
• Beware of and don’t pass on others gossip or
rumors unless you can verify the credibility of
• Don’t get drawn into arguments of any type,
especially those dealing with politics, sex or
• Be positive; don’t whine and complain.
• Be confident and assertive but not aggressive.
• When voicing objections or criticism convey it
from an organizational perspective.
• Don't ever rely on confidentiality as your
‘secret’ will be passed along as soon as you are
out of the room.
Nothing saves a job or career better than having a record of everything you do. If you believe something may come back to haunt you, make sure you print hard copies or soft copy any email’s, memo's or documents that support your
position onto your own private flash drive and keep them in a safe place away from work.
In conclusion, the easiest way to avoid problems with office politics is to get along with people. If you have a concern, focus only on the issue or task, not on the person.
If you have to refuse a request explain why and try to come up with an alternative solution but remain a model of professionalism and at all times. (Cue the rattle!)