Office Politics

When I commenced this blog the primary idea was to help charter the tricky realm of officegiri. At that point, I thought this was perhaps an issue that I had exacerbated given my string of bad experiences. But going by recent reader feedback, and this one acerbic post,  I guess not. Office politics continues unbridled and it is up to each of us to find our ways and means of steering clear or navigating through it.

Meanwhile, this post on a job portal caught my attention and I felt it was appropriate to share with you all.

Playing nice in office politics

Wed, 05/21/2008 – 11:45 — Anonymous

Office politics is a fact of working life. Despite its negative reputation, don’t automatically dismiss it as a bad thing. Do you know that you can use it to further your career goals — and still be able to sleep easy at the end of the day?

By Catherine GS Lim

Mention “office politics” and chances are you’ll get a dirty look from your friends. Admittedly, it’s not the most pleasant thing in the world, and if you have been a victim of it before, it might even have cost you a promotion…

“You don’t know which side to take. You know the truth about certain things but you can’t express them because you can’t offend your boss,” says 19-year-old marketing intern Tan Li Lin, on her first brush with office politics. Seems that no one, whatever their experience level, is a fan of office politics.

However, short of banning it in the office (a virtual impossibility), the best way to deal with it is to get your feet wet. The reality is that if you want to get ahead in your career, it’s not enough to rely on mere merit. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get with the programme.

Office politics is not bad

The first thing to acknowledge is that not all office politics is bad. Yes, that’s right. Even the good guys play the game. It’s an inevitable part ofw orking life — was, is, and will be. In fact, any company with more than one person has some sort of office politics churning in the background.

Surviving office politics while staying on the side of the angels is simply by making sure you play according to your rules. Do what you have to get ahead, but ensure that no one gets hurt in the process. Better still, help your colleagues where possible, and one day, someone may get promoted into a position to return the favour.

So how do you dabble in office politics without denting that halo above your head? Below are some tips:

1. First of all, never sell your soul.

Don’t do anything that will keep you up for more than two nights in a row. The rules of business today mean that we sometimes have to, for instance, proactively direct the office gossip towards a more “productive” destination. Just don’t do anything you won’t want to read in a colleague’s autobiography five years later — or something that you would have to explain to Saint Peter upon reaching the pearly gates.

2. Be on the alert.

Information is king, and letting the right people know that you have more of it than your colleagues moves you a few steps ahead. Keep careful notes on anything and everything: Birthdays of the higher-ups (and their kids!), company anniversaries, positive media coverage about your colleagues, etc. Send off a note of congratulations where appropriate — you’ll build a reputation of becoming that eager beaver who’s most likely to break through that glass ceiling.

3. Make friends with everyone.

And I mean everyone. You never know who may be able to help you climb up the corporate ladder (and who may help you fall). Who knows if the cleaning lady isn’t friendly with the chairman behind closed doors? She might even be his spy! A new staff who has just graduated needs lots of babying, but he or she might be your boss in a couple of years. If the CEO’s secretary is having a bad day, email her a note of sympathy. It won’t win you points with the CEO, but you would have nudged open that door a little.

4. Tune in to the grapevine.

I’m talking about the sort of information that gets shared at watercoolers, in the pantry, over lunches, and in hushed whispers. On your part, unless it is to your advantage, don’t “share” the information. Otherwise, you’d soon be known as the office trumpeter and everyone will clam up in your presence. However, if you feel the information warrants a response from you, verify its accuracy first. Once it passes muster, consider how to use it discreetly to your advantage.

5. Sing your own praises quietly.

Do this in a way that shows your superiors how hard working you are. Since they spend much time behind closed doors, most of your work would have taken place out of their sight. So, ask them if you can take the case file home to read over the weekend. Keep them updated with regular progress reports. In your preliminary report, leave in references to your meticulous research. Just don’t overdo it, otherwise they may start to question your self-confidence and initiative.

6. Never sell your soul. (Yes, this needs to be repeated.)

In short, be smart, be alert, and be just a little bit more cunning (though not conniving) than the other person. Check in with your conscience from time to time to ensure that you don’t do anything that would cause the karmic laws of cause-and-effect to give you a kick in the pants further down the road. Office politics doesn’t have to be a bad thing — it all depends on how you play the game.


4 thoughts on “Office Politics

  1. Game is right. Sadly it dosnt come naturally to some. What should they do? If you stay away you have an attitude, if you interact you are too social. Some people just arnt that people friendly. Hello!!! Why cant they be left alone?? I got all mixed up this time. Its too complicated a topic you know.

    • @anju..welcome to the club. if you ask people deep down most people aren’t people friendly, and by this i mean most people will not talk to ALL people. those are few and far between. you must have noticed we truly follow our Indian-ness. Just like the country is divided into states so are you have a bongs, mallus, gujjus, tamilians or everyone down south vs everyone up north and any community you can think about!! Good for you, if you don’t want to be part of this factionism. May your ilk increase 😀

  2. “Surviving office politics while staying on the side of the angels is simply by making sure you play according to your rules. Do what you have to get ahead, but ensure that no one gets hurt in the process.”

    Though it might sound difficult, it comes quite naturally once you are in the know how of how the wheels turn at one’s workplace. 🙂

    But what got my goat was my friend falling prey to dirty office politics, ultimately resulting in him getting fired. Everybody knew it was not his mistake. But they were all helpless.


    • @rocksta. I don’t think it ever comes naturally to those who are disinclined to it. Some people have it and some don’t. I know of several folks who have sort of mastered the art of being invisible or oblivious to officegiri. They just do their work and get out. Some have progressed and some stagnated. As for your friend, remember rocksta there are always two sides, and sometimes more, to every story.

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