According to political scientist Harold Laswell, office politics can be defined as “the understood rules of who gets what, when — and how.” So it’s no wonder why a majority of employees loathe politics — your future career trajectory could literally come down to a few random, unwritten guidelines about “how we do things around here.” Often, this makes the workplace feel “rigged,” and research shows that employees who feel their company is too political are more likely to quit. So what’s the best way to wade through the murky political waters and advocate for yourself? We’ve got 4 tips that’ll help keep you afloat.
The easiest way to lose the game before it even starts is by gossiping. You’ll instantly make your colleagues hesitant to share anything meaningful with you, and ice yourself out of the loop. Protect yourself by not saying anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face. That way, you’ll keep your most valuable asset in tact: your credibility.
Figure out how decisions are made.
Not only is it important to know who makes the big calls, but how they are made. Of course, the top brass has the final say, but who are the key people influencing the thinking at the top? They’re the folks that you really need to build rapport with.
To get a clearer picture of how decisions are made, try any and get invited to meetings where more consequential topics will be discussed. If necessary, explain that you’re requesting to sit in for “career development” purposes. And that’s not a lie. You really are there to learn — just not about the topic of the meeting.
Have you ever had someone in your life who reaches out to you only when they need something, and never any other time? They made you feel used, right? You definitely don’t want to be that person at work. So from day one at a job, you should start developing relationships with everyone — especially those who can help you achieve your goals. Offer to lend a hand when a colleague is swamped. Join workplace event-planning committees. And make sure you do a great job with everything you touch.
Know when to hang it up.
It’s important to be persistent, but it’s just as important to know when you should bow out of the game. Sometimes, no amount of campaigning and deal-making will help you reach the particular goal you’re after. And if you push too hard, you’ll actually hurt your credibility in the long run. Knowing when to quit means you’ll live to fight for the next big idea you have, and with our tips in mind, you may be able to get it across the finish line.