1. 7 Habits To Win In Office Politics
HABIT #1 - BE AWARE YOU HAVE A CHOICE
The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers. Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.
Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…
HABIT #2 - KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO ACHIEVE
When conflicts happens, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.
The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins. It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.
By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.
HABIT #3 - FOCUS ON YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE
At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests. Bitching and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do bitching really accomplish? In most instances, none.
Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation - your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints. You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome, but you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.
Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.
HABIT #4 - DON’T TAKE SIDES
In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position. All at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.
In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them - even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.
By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.
HABIT #5 - DON’T GET PERSONAL
In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.
People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the work place.
To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they habour ill-intentions towards you - all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.
Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone.
Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.
HABIT #6 - SEEK TO UNDERSTAND, BEFORE BEING UNDERSTOOD
The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.
Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept. Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult - there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.
HABIT #7 - THINK WIN-WIN
As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.
In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him. Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agree resolution and not pay only lip-service to it.
People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice, but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace. Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.2. Win at Office Politics Without Selling Your Soul
In office politics, as in most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Once a coworker or boss is out to get you, it's hard to avoid being stabbed in the back. Play positive politics, though, and your coworkers and bosses will probably turn any stabbing instincts elsewhere. Here are a few of my favorite positive politics strategies:
- Ask Respected Higher-Ups for Counsel Periodically: Encourage them to think of you as a protege, and they're more likely to defend you when you need it.
- Perform Deliberate Acts of Kindness: Stay late one night to help a coworker on a deadline. Send a handwritten thank-you note to the person who gave you that Word tip.
- Do Visible, Important Tasks: If such tasks aren't in your job description, ask if you can take one on. Be sure everyone knows you did the work. For example, you might email key employees a draft of your project's final report, "for feedback," ensuring your boss or rival doesn't try to steal the credit.
Keep Your Antennae Out
Sometimes, despite playing positive politics, someone will want you to look bad -- if only because he wants that promotion you're vying for. You can't respond to his machinations unless you know who the perpetrator is. Here are a few ways to find out:
- Are you being kept out of the information loop? Who's behind that?
- Are you lacking the resources you need to do your job? Who's behind that?
- At meetings, does someone always seem to disagree with you, if not verbally, then by sighing, rolling his eyes or appearing not to pay attention when you're speaking?
- When you ask someone for support or advice, do you get the sense he's annoyed?
- When you talk one-on-one with your suspected saboteur, does he always seem eager to cut the conversation short?
When You Feel You're Losing the Game
You have the sense that someone's sabotaging you. Now what? Hopefully, by having kept your antennae out, you know who that person is. Here are some strategies for foiling him:
- Get Feedback from a Supporter: Say something like, "I'm concerned Matt is annoyed with me. Have you noticed that? Anything you think I should do?"
- Respond with Strength: If your saboteur tries to put you down, especially in front of others, don't wimp out. Make a strong response, perhaps using humor. For example, you're proposing a solution to a problem at a meeting. Throughout your presentation, Joe is slouching, doodling and rolling his eyes. You might say something like, "Joe, it looks like my idea is putting you to sleep. Either you went to quite a party last night, or you have a better solution. Care to share it?"
- Quietly Confront the Backstabber: For example, "I've noticed that you seem annoyed with me. Is there anything I'm doing wrong?" If you get useful feedback, fine. Thank him and offer to work on improving. If, however, you sense that his reason for annoyance is unjustified, you need to be strong. For example, you might say, "Matt, you're withholding key information from me. Things need to change, or I'll have to go to the boss."
- Inoculate: Tell others you're concerned this person is unfairly trying to denigrate you for selfish gain. Point to specific evidence of unfairness, or you may be perceived as the backstabber.
Politics is part of society. And my guess is that you want to participate in society (at least) so that you can support yourself. But people who are good at politics are generally empathetic (they understand who needs what) and they have good self-discipline (they can moderate themselves so they are pleasant to be with.)
Most people who hate politics think they have to change who they are to succeed. Really, though, anyone who is being their best self ? kind, considerate, expressive, interested in others ? will do fine in office politics.
So get to know yourself. Saying you just can’t do politics is giving up on being your best self. And wait, there’s more good news about office politics. If you really take a look at what’s going on over there at the water cooler, people are not jockeying for power, they are hobnobbing for projects. That’s right. For most people in today’s workplace, office politics is about getting the best opportunities to learn and grow; the best projects, the best training, the assignments that build skills the market values.
Office chatter with the vapid goal of getting power over other people is, frankly, a little offensive. But it is hard to fault people for wanting to grow and learn. In fact, I find more fault with people who care so little about personal growth that they won’t spend the extra energy politicking to get themselves on good projects.
Maybe you are convinced, but you are feeling at a loss to get started. Here are four things that people who are good at office politics do:
1. Make time for it ? both in terms of face time, and time alone to analyze the face time.
2. Listen. How can you learn anything when you’re talking about what you already know?
3. Have genuine interest in other people. Each person is interesting if you are interested enough to ask the right question.
4. Practice empathy. This means putting yourself in other peoples’ shoes all the time. And not judging them.
Maybe you’re still thinking of being the person at the office who abstains from office politics. Realize that you won’t last long - in the office, that is. Putting your head down and doing your work is a good way to ensure that you don’t connect with anyone. This situation is deadly in a world where people are hired for what they know and fired for who they are. People need to get to know you in order to like you.
The act of making yourself likeable is office politicking. You shouldn’t have to be fake if you are a genuinely nice and interested person. If office politics requires you to do something that feels fake, consider that you were not likeable in the first place. For you, office politics is training ground to teach yourself to be likeable, and, as a side benefit, you will save your job. For others, office politics is the time at work when you get to be your best, true, self in search of more learning opportunities and more human connections.5. Ways to win at office politics
Here are Essex's nine tips to help you win at office politics and still gain other's respect.
1. Observe how things get done in your organization.
Ask some key questions: What are the core values and how are they enacted? Are short- or long-term results most valued? How are decisions made? How much risk is tolerated? The answers to these questions should give you a good sense of the culture of your organization.
2. Profile powerful individuals
Pay attention to their communication style, network of relationships and what types of proposals they say "yes" to most often. Emulate those traits by drawing on the strengths you have.
3. Determine strategic initiatives in the company
Update your skills to be relevant to company initiatives. For example, don't lag behind in technology, quality or customer service approaches that are crucial to you and your company's success.
4. Develop a personal track record as someone who gets results
Style without substance will not gain others' respect, especially in today's organizations that focus on outcome.
5. Don't be afraid to toot your own horn
If no one knows of your good work, you may lose at the game of office politics -- when you really deserve to win. Let others know what you've accomplished whenever you get the opportunity. If you don't know the fine art of diplomatic bragging, you might get lost in the shuffle of your co-workers.
6. Treat everyone with respect
Don't show preferential treatment or treat co-workers badly. You never know who someone might be connected to and rude behavior may come back to bite you.
7. Don't align too strongly with one group
While an alliance may be powerful for the moment, new leadership will often oust existing coalitions and surround themselves with a new team. Bridging across factions may be a more effective strategy for long-term success if you intend to stay in your current organization for some time.
8. Learn to communicate persuasively
Develop an assertive style, backed with solid facts and examples, to focus others' attention on your ideas and proposals. Good politicians can adjust their messages for their audience ands are always well-prepared.
9. Be true to yourself.
After analyzing the political landscape in your company, if you decide the game is one you can't play, prepare to move on. It's not typical, but some organizations actually condone -- even promote -- dishonest, ruthless or unethical behavior. The game of office politics in this situation is not one worth winning.