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How to Keep Office Politics From Destroying Your Success at Work

Align with decision-makers

Before coming and launching a fully-fledged proposal at a committee or in a memorandum, it's smart to test opinion and find out how key people will react.

This enables you to anticipate counter-arguments and update your proposal to answer objections and to accommodate political realities.

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Using Office politics to your advantage

Office politics are a reality, and avoiding them altogether risks not having a say in what happens. 

It also allows people with less experience, skill or knowledge than you to influence decisions that affect you and your team.

Analyze the Organization Chart

Map the political power and influence in your organization, rather than people's rank or job title.

Ask yourself questions like, "Who are the real influencers?," "Who has authority but tends not to exercise it?," "Who is respected?," "Who champions or mentors others?," and "Who is the brains behind the business?"

Understand the Informal Network

Examine people's interactions and relationships to understand the informal or social networks.

Watch closely (but discreetly and respectfully) to find out who gets along with who, and who finds it more difficult to interact with others. 

Notice whether connections are based on friendship, respect, romance, or something else.

Workplace Drama

When workplace drama affects you, it can become an insidious cloud that permeates your day-to-day.

Be mindful and ask yourself, "What is actually going on here?" Focus on the facts and avoid what you think happened. Know that you can't control how you feel, only how you react.

Count Your Elephants

Make a list of all of the awkward, uncomfortable realities that haven't been discussed out in the open. 

Set aside time to consciously think through, what's actually bothering you right now and write down these elephants to enable you to resolve these issues.

Identify Your Role In The Problem

Be honest with yourself: Are you contributing to the situation negatively or doing anything to help?

Write down the ways in which you've contributed, and identify how you can personally take responsibility. 

Coworkers That Cause Drama

When you're second-guessing yourself before communicating with someone, you probably have reservations based on their past reactions. 

When you do need to communicate with such people, you may need to tailor your messages to the expectation of how they might react.

Don't Pretend to Be Above Office Politics

You work with a variety of people and you won't always get along with everyone. Telling yourself, "I don't engage in office politics, I tell it like it is," is a flawed tactic that might just cause more trouble.

When you stick your foot in your mouth, all you can do is apologize and explain it was a genuine mistake.

Ask Questions

Ask your contacts in any new environment.

  • Are there sensitive topics that I shouldn't discuss without talking to you first?
  • Can you draw an organizational chart for me?
  • Who should my main point of contact be for this project?
  • Is there a certain process I should follow for this task? Is it okay if I talk to this person first?
  • With whom should I be engaging?

With a clear understanding of how they work and are their organizational hierarchy, you're less likely to do something that will cause unnecessary drama or miscommunication.