• Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

How to Make Office Politics Work for You

It's a political year and I'm starting to believe that office politics should be a job that Mike Rowe explores on his Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs. One of my clients recently told me of a doozy! After a recent acquisition by my client's company, the newly acquired company planned a sales meeting. The President and other "top people" stayed in the Grand Hyatt Resort while everyone else was booked in a budget hotel a few miles away! Imagine the politics with lobbying to stay in the nicer hotel that took place prior to the meeting.

Even though office politics get a bad rap, they can actually be a good thing. "Political moves are the navigation through your career - not the driver," says Susan DePhillips, former V.P. of Human Resources for Ross Stores.

To be in the Smart Zone you must use Emotional Intelligence to know how to work within the politics of your environment. Here are some Smart Moves for how to make office politics work for you.

  • Start with Relationships. To accomplish your goals you'll need the respect and support of others - both above and below you on the corporate ladder. People change departments and your marketing buddy could move over to the finance department next week and have control over your budget. Support staff often have a special "in" with the boss and know best times and ways to approach the boss. Treat support staff like a good customer - by getting them information they need in a timely manner. It will pay off in the long run.

  • Motivate, Don't Bribe. I recently conducted a workshop where an audience member asked me the difference between motivating someone and a bribe. A bribe is when you receive something in return for your actions such as, "If you book me at the luxury hotel, I won't tell the boss when you leave work early on Friday." Motivating someone looks like this, "I'll book you in the luxury hotel because you deserve to stay somewhere nice." Motivating someone else will keep both of you in your Smart Zone.

  • Don't Use Knowledge as a Weapon. Have you ever worked with someone who set you up to look bad because they had information you didn't have? Have you ever walked into a meeting and felt confused about the discussion? (Just for fun, watch this humorous example). If you have information that will help your boss, subordinates, coworkers, or clients then share it with them. You will gain trust and loyalty from others.

  • Keep up with Gossip. Office gossip is the fastest ticket into office politics and, let's face it, it's a great diversion from the workday routine. Keeping up with office gossip will help you stay informed about tensions and upcoming changes and can help you balance life and work. It's okay to listen to the gossip - but just don't spread it. Chances are, if someone is gossiping with you, they will some day gossip about you.

  • Practice Now. According to University of Pennsylvania Professor John Eldred, politics is a practice that takes networking skills. "You can't wait until you are in a bind to start building networks," he says. Office politics is about building relationships and getting results at the same time.