Office Politics

Office Politics

This is another post from my other life at Brodard. This one is about Office Politics. 

For most right-minded people the mere mention of office politics sends a chill down their spines, makes them hold their children close, and throw salt over their left shoulder. Navigating the minefield of potential allegiances, conflicts, affiliations, and general no-mucking-about skullduggery can send most people scurrying to HR only to discover they’re as Machiavellian as everyone else. Office politics is like the Matrix; it’s all around us, in every move we make and the only way to beat the system is to take the red pill (the “leave now” pill). Unfortunately there is no blue pill.

I used to have a pretty solid stance on office politics and that was: “I don’t get involved in office politics”. What was ironic is that this is a political position in itself and merely means that you distance yourself from anything you think may harm your career prospects. I was as political as everyone else but I thought that I had risen above it all like some kind of zen master, “ohmm”- ing myself into a corporate meditative state, when in fact I had positioned myself as a diplomatic immovable rock against the unstoppable force of politics.

So, how does one become a Neo of politics, dodging the bullets of back-stabbing, bitching, crowing and brown-nosing? I have a few tips:

  1. Accept that you have to be political.  Office politics is at the core of all organisations so you firstly have to accept that as a given. Once you have stopped rocking in a corner you need to realise that being political is all about raising your profile and making others aware of you and your abilities. You don’t have to be mean, disparage your colleagues’ reputations or sabotage anyone else to achieve this. If you blend into the background you may be missed come promotion time. Or get used as a hat stand.
  2. Become your own political party, with you as the sole member.  You have to sing your own praises sometimes, because sometimes the political terrain doesn’t allow anyone else to do it for you. If other people say how wonderful you are, then great, but that is going to happen about as much as Elvis being hit by lightning in a leap year – so you need to take that responsibility upon yourself. To some, this is called ‘brown nosing’ but when you have been noticed for doing such a great job because you told people who matter about it then you will have the last laugh in your big, swish corner office with your big, swish Audi key-fob cluttering your big, swish desk (the last laugh (if you need help) goes along the lines of: “mwahhh-ha-ha-ha-ha..”.)
  3. Don’t bitch.  Sometimes it might feel like a good way to bond with your fellow workers to say that Arnold in legal is about as clever as play-dough, Donald couldn’t organise a bun fight in a cake factory or Annette is only where she is today because she lied on her CV but disparaging other people is not a pleasant way to conduct yourself in a corporate environment. Walk away, make your excuses or find a more honest way to address what are really your issues. This is a lesson you should bring into ‘real’ life as well. You know, be nice.
  4. Get to know people above and below you.  Don’t create cliques or us-and-them hegemonies; try to get to know everyone around you from the post boy to the head of finance so that you can understand every issue you encounter from multiple perspectives and nurture an eclectic group of allies. Don’t be tempted to kick the rungs out from beneath you as you climb your way to the top either; remember, these guys are going to be working for you so you best be good to them.
  5. Understand to be understood.  It is one of life’s undeniable truths that some people have zero people skills. Some are barely people. They seem to think that getting the job done is the most important thing and people’s feelings and pride are just the eggs that get broken as they make their omelette. Well, they’re wrong. A good political player will seek to understand other people’s issues, take them into account and break the eggs to make the omelette together. You have to get things done, but if you appear to get them done together, then everyone wins. It’s like cooking with three year olds, basically.

Being political is not about being smarmy, devious or conniving. It is about making sure that people know that you are doing a good job, in a good way whilst keeping the majority of the people happy most of the time. Simple, really.

Now, repeat after me: I know kung-fu…


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