Politics is not a dirty word

“I don’t get involved in the office politics…”

Why do we play the game of denial when it comes to the ‘p’ word, and what is the potential impact if you avoid office politics?

There is an enormous downside to denying or avoiding politics to your prospects. As a former denier of playing the political game, I learned the hard way on missing out on promotions, being derailed on a major project, getting set up to fail, and totally misreading office cliques. This was until I was gifted a book called Survival of The Savvy – High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success by Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman.

These are the lessons I have learnt that relate to any business regardless of size, as the common factor is that they are all inhabited by human beings.

  1. Change your story about politics – unless you’re running for President or Prime Minister, let go of the story that politics happens in a negative way, in dark alleys, long corridors and in other clandestine venues where there is an absence of integrity. Brandon and Seldman share a concept that there is such a thing as “high integrity” politics. Building networks, giving feedback, learning from others, building coalitions of influence and sharing ideas are all examples of politics done the “right way”.
  2. Get in the game – you can’t shoot a goal if you’re not on the field of play. You need to make a conscious decision to register and enter into the political arena, or you are simply a spectator watching others playing the game on your behalf. Don’t be surprised if the result of others playing politics for you doesn’t come out as a win for you particularly if they’re part of the low integrity political team.
  3. Never tie your horse to one pole – high integrity political plays involve investing time in building relationships both inside and outside your organisation. It’s a great way to learn from a wider range of human beings. Be careful that you are not overly reliant on grabbing onto the coattails of who you think will protect you and propel you to stardom. They may not be reading the politics and if they move on you can quickly go from the penthouse to the outhouse.
  4. Know your corporate buzz – do you really know how you are perceived in the business or are you going on hearsay? What does your bosses boss say about you? Keep your ear to the ground and have the courage to ask for some feedback rather than second-guessing what others think about you or you will get surprised and miss out on that certain promotion. Believe me – I’ve experienced it and it was because I didn’t have a line of sight to my bosses’ boss and their dim view of my ability. It’s a real confidence killer.
  5. Get a mentor – we all need that “wise owl” figure in our lives who has been through the stages of denial to active participant in organisational politics. Find a mentor who can give you a dose of reality and share some of their experiences to bring to life why it’s critical that you participate in the organisational politics, and more importantly what risks and rewards await you depending upon whether you go “low” or “high” in your approach.

It’s all about the type of politics that you choose to play, getting in the game and not allowing others to fill in for you and keeping your ear to the ground on how you are perceived by those in positions of influence.

Denier or active participant?

What’s your choice?

Mark LeBusque, Founder and Director, The Human Manager