Office Politics Survival Guide

Office Politics Survival Guide

Office Politics Survival Guide

NBC recently launched its latest, greatest comedy, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Without revealing too much off the plot, let me just say that the series’ protagonist has an uncanny ability to read the minds of her coworkers. Cutthroat battles for advancement, managerial assessments of employees, scandalous office romances, and backroom cliques and coalitions are on Zoey’s radar long before everyone else at her tech hub sees them coming. Imagine having premonition in your toolbox. If given the choice between superpowers, I’d take Zoey’s in a heartbeat. Don’t kid yourself, you would too.

If you’ve been in an organization long enough, you begin to see the maneuvering, the alliances, the hidden agendas and yes, the backstabbing. Workplaces are political. Write that on your brain. Workplaces are political. Unfortunately, there’s precious space for those who believe they can rise above the political fray. In fact, I could write volumes about former colleagues and employees who were chewed up and spit out of organizations because they convinced themselves that they didn’t have to “play the game.” As Aristotle once postulated, we are all political beings because “politics” is a manifestation of our self-preservation. Said another way, we play the game because it’s the only game to play. While you may not be an office politician, you are impacted by the politicians around you. The good news? You don’t have to lose your soul as you navigate the nuances of office politics.

The Players

If you want to survive and then thrive in your organization wrought with politics, it’s vital to know the politicians and their tactics. A 2012 survey of office politics conducted by Accountemps determined that there are basically six types of office politicians in every organization. The Gossip Hound thrives on knowing the intimate details – fact or fiction – about all their coworkers. The Lobbyist has the uncanny ability to sway opinions through their ability to command an audience and enter every debate. The Advisor, often an older employee, is the one everyone turns to for history and bolstering their parties’ points-of-view. Flatterers apply a thick layer of praise on those they want in their pocket for a later opportunity. As the name applies, the Credit Thief claims ownership for everyone else’s great ideas and organizational wins to ensure rapid advancement. Finally, the lowest form of office political life, the Saboteur, is always “in it to win it.” If you get between the Saboteur and their prize, you will be attacked.

The Countermeasures

Now that you know the politicians and have accepted the idea that office politics is unavoidable, it is important to equip yourself with countermeasures that can help you navigate the political landscape with confidence and strength. Your biggest asset will always be your authenticity. Mean what you say, follow-up on your commitments, and do not be the kind of person who always gauges public opinion before acting. Authenticity is a must in the office. It will put you in the “trusted” column with your colleagues.

While you may not have Zoey’s supernatural premonition, it’s still important for you to practice astuteness, that is, know your context and your teammates. While you don’t need to conduct a CSI investigation of your workplace, you need to know the political landscape and the politicians. Observe. Listen to your gut. Don’t align yourself with corrosive colleagues. When in doubt, seek the counsel of the one politician you can trust… the Advisor.

Finally, build and maintain a network. Politics isn’t for soloists. Connect with people you trust and cultivate collegiality through conversation, coffee, and collaboration. When the campaigns are in full swing in your office setting, you want to have supporters to your right and left.

Until you acquire the superpowers we all want, learn how to play the game. Your career depends on it.