Using Office Politics To Your Advantage

Jane had been with her company for a year and was ready for her next challenge. Having extensive experience and a stellar track record, she applied for the company's director position, only to be beaten out by Sarah, who didn't have the same level of expertise. However, Sarah had worked with the hiring manager before.

Dave needed to get funding for his next project. He knew that Joe was very influential on the resources committee, so he took Joe to lunch and gave him some insights into why his project was important to the business. At the next resources committee, Joe took a stance and Dave's project was funded.

These are two examples of how office politics can have an impact on decisions. While office politics can have a negative, back-stabbing connotation, these cases show that it's simply how business is done. All workplaces are affected by office politics to some extent, simply because people bring their personal emotions, needs, ambitions and insecurities into their professional lives.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we'll share these tips from the career-building website, Mindtools, on how to use office politics in a positive way.

1. Analyze the organization chart. Office politics tend to circumvent the formal organizational structure. So, when you observe or map the structure of political power and influence in an organization, it's most likely different from what's reflected on the organization chart. To do this, ask yourself questions like, "Who are the real influencers?," "Who has authority but tends not to exercise it?," "Who is respected?," "Who champions or mentors others?," and "Who is the brains behind the business?"

2. Understand the informal network. Next, examine people's interactions and relationships to understand the informal or social networks. Observe who gets along with who, and who finds it more difficult to interact with others. Notice whether connections are based on friendship, respect or something else. Finally, try to decipher how influence flows between the parties, and whether there are any interpersonal conflicts.

3. Build connections. Now that you know how existing relationships work, you can start to build your own social network. Look beyond your immediate team and across the formal hierarchy in all directions—co-workers, managers and executives. Don't be afraid of politically powerful people. Instead, get to know them and build high-quality connection. Be friendly with everyone, but avoid aligning yourself too closely with one group or another.

4. Develop your "people skills." Politics are all about people, so strong interpersonal skills are important when it comes to building and maintaining your network. Reflect on your emotions, what prompts them and how you handle them. If you can learn to self-regulate, you'll be able to think before you act. This kind of emotional intelligence helps you pick up on other people's emotions, too, and understand what kind of approach they like or dislike. And, take time to be a good listener.

5. Be brave, but not naïve. Your first instinct may be to keep your distance from people who practice "bad" politics. In fact, the opposite can be more effective. The expression, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer," often applies to office politics. So, get to know the gossips and manipulators better. Be courteous but guarded, as they may repeat what you say with a negative spin. Try to understand their goals so that you can avoid or counter the impact of their negative politicking.

6. Neutralize negative politics. You can help to make the workplace more positive by refusing to fuel the fire and join in negative politics. Avoid rumors and don't rely on confidentiality. It's safer to assume that whatever you say will be repeated, so choose what you share carefully. Also, remain professional at all times, and don't take sides or get sucked into arguments or recriminations. When a conflict arises, remember that there doesn't have to be a winner and a loser. It's often possible to find a solution that satisfies everyone.

Source: Mindtools is a website with a wide range of skill-building resources to help you become exceptionally effective and highly successful, transform you into an inspirational manager and leader-and even become happier at work.

filed under April 2018
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