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Understand the Office Politics

By: Paul MacKenzie-Cummings - Updated: 19 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Office Work Job Politics Office Politics

Your first day in your new office can be a daunting experience at the best of times. And the last thing you want to be faced with is the internal politics and the feeling that you have to choose which ‘side’ of the fence you want to be on. Office politics are as familiar a feature of every workplace as the water cooler, but there is very little refreshing about it. So you have a choice: do you choose to ignore it, or do you learn how to play the game and use it to your personal advantage?

Most of us have been witness to the rise of the mediocre employee who seemed to be holding a fast-pass to promotion over the hard-working, honest and seemingly smarter worker. But why does that happen?

Because promotion is about competition.

With fewer hires and increased redundancies, there simply are not enough promotions to go around which is why some people try to gain the competitive edge over their colleagues by making themselves more ‘visible’.

Everyone wants to work on the big projects that can enhance their reputation, prestige, recognition, influence and, ultimately, power. But the way that some people approach this is different.

On the one hand, there are the ‘purists’. These are the people who will work with diligence and honesty in the belief that they will be recognised and rewarded for the work that they do without resorting to ulterior tactics.

And on the other hand, there are the ‘players’. Whilst respecting company rules and regulations, they recognise that the ‘hidden’ rules of the office can be more influential to their ambitions and will maximise their connections and relationships to advance their positions.

So, are you a purist or a player? And is it really possible to avoid getting caught up in office politics?

Here are a few things that you can do to avoid the trap of selling your soul:

Befriend Your Boss

Most managers consider themselves to be experts at what they do and will often relish the opportunity to pass on their experience and advice to you. Allow them to think of you as their protégé but be careful not to appear as the boss’ new lapdog.

Show Enthusiasm

Offer to take on the responsibility of tasks outside of your normal duties. But avoid appearing too eager because it could backfire on you.

Dress To Impress

Shakespeare said, ‘Apparel oft befits the man’. Dress for the job that you want, not the job you already have.

Stand Up For Yourself

Despite your best intentions, someone may try and make you look bad for their own personal gain, perhaps they view you as a main rival. Deal with the person face-to-face to resolve the conflict or, if that fails, respond with strength in a humorous way at the next meeting. This will earn you respect with your peers and also make the perpetrator feel foolish.

It may seem unfair to associate office politics as being bad. Is it really that bad to know how to push the buttons of the people who can determine your future career prospects?

But, career success is not just about talent. If you want your career to thrive then you have to work to establish credibility, gain allies with influence, stay visible and gain an understanding of the culture.

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