Are You an Office Politician?

Businessman on stairsWhether or not we want to admit it there are politics in every office.  This has become such a negative term in the US, at least, that most people want to avoid the topic.  However, politics is a part of the process of working together.  We’ve come to regard it as an ugly game that is played.

When you look up the definition of politics you find that one is competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government)” per Webster’s dictionary.  It’s true that politics is often a competition between individuals for power and leadership.  Does that make it a bad thing?  Not really.  It’s a fact of life and work.

So how do you become adept at office politics?  First succeeding in office politics means avoiding the following things:

  • Gossiping
  • Bullying
  • Stealing credit
  • Playing the blame game
  • Sucking up to those in power
  • Demeaning others

These things are all negative actions and are quite hostile to those you work with on a daily basis.  When you engage in these activities you are showing others that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead and that others don’t matter to you nearly as much as your career means.

It is possible to do well in office politics without selling your soul.  To do so focus on these things:

  • Act with integrity
  • Support the organizations goals
  • Treat others well
  • Build relationships throughout the organization
  • Bring solutions not just problems
  • Take responsibility and follow-through on commitments
  • Be willing to do new things that challenge you to grow

These are all behaviors that demonstrate your leadership abilities and they will help others see you as a leader.  How you define your career success is up to you.  If you want to move up in your organization you will need to show others that you have the ability to do what is needed to support the organization.  This means playing the office politics game, however it can be a clean and rewarding game.

To become a successful office politician means that you are capable of interacting with people outside your direct group to get things done.  This is really about building relationships and collaborating with others in a way that people will respect.  Focus on building relationships and building trust and you will succeed without succumbing to the ugly side of office politics.


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Filed under Leadership

14 responses to “Are You an Office Politician?

  1. themantisshrimp

    Being a good politician is almost the same thing as being a good negotiator (if you’re willing to use the term loosely enough to embrace those small moments of communication). In negotiations, it is important to know how to develop and hear out the other party before understanding how you can help.

  2. It’s funny how many negative connotations there are to the word ‘politician’. When really, it should be a positive thing – leader, mediator, connector, innovator, order keeper. Sounds like qualities an office could use in a person.

    • Angie – You are right that the word has become such a negative. Unfortunately many of the US politicians aren’t true leaders so they destroyed the meaning of the word.

      Have a great day.

  3. Great post! The word ‘politics’ gets a bad rap. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all focused on building relationships and collaborating towards shared goals.

  4. I never thought of ‘politics’ in a positive way before. I always saw it as a negative thing, often hearing the saying “oh it’s all politics”.

    When I was working with other people I always tried to stay out of all the gossip, but I still liked to know what was going on. I think that’s just because I’m nosy.

    After reading this and some of the comments, I agree now that everyone participates in office politics, whether it’s being a bad politician or a good one, is up to them.

  5. Fred – I like your thought on looking to understand strengths of the people around you. It does give the idea of “politics” another meaning. I like it. Thanks.

  6. my immediate reaction to the term “office politics” is a negative one (as others have mentioned). i like the way you clearly illustrate how being an office politician can be a constructive and positive endeavor that one should pursue. thanks for the refreshing and helpful perspective, carol.

  7. It’s so important to play “nice.” And by nice I don’t mean that you have to be a doormat. I mean that you have to abide by the rules you learned in pre-school. Be nice to friends. Don’t lie. Don’t be mean.

    It’s amazing how some people see these bad behaviors as just doing what they need to in order to get ahead, but in reality you can be a bigger person and play nice while advancing your career (instead of being THAT guy. . . )

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