Winning at office politics


Most of us probably consider ourselves lucky that we are not in the business of politics. However, at the same time, it is a fact of life that politics exist just about everywhere in one form or another, and over half of American workers believe playing the game is necessary to keep a career moving in the right direction. And even if you don’t, you are no doubt amidst others who do. Here’s a helpful guide to playing the game.

The study comes from Robert Half International, which notes that 56% recognize the importance of politics when it comes to getting ahead.

Here’s the full breakdown of answers to a question about the necessity of playing politics at the workplace:
* 15%: Very necessary to get ahead
* 41%: Somewhat necessary to get ahead
* 42% Not at all necessary to get ahead
* 2% Don’t know/no answer

The source of the study suggests that one ignores office politics at one’s peril. “There is some degree of politics at play in virtually every organization,” said Max Messmer, Chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. “The savviest professionals practice workplace diplomacy. They remain attuned to political undercurrents but don’t allow themselves to get pulled into situations that could compromise their working relationships or reputation.”

RHI offers six strategies for playing the game:

* Build a broad coalition of support. In an effort to impress your company’s power players, don’t overlook those at the grassroots level. Lobby for the respect and trust of all your colleagues. Forge strong alliances by sharing credit for successes and delivering on your promises. You never know whose endorsement or vote of confidence could benefit your career in the future.

* Avoid smear campaigns. Gossiping or outright mudslinging is only guaranteed to damage one person’s credibility: yours. When you’re upset or frustrated, wait until after you’ve calmed down to express your concerns. Be direct but tactful, focusing on facts rather than feelings.

* Stay true to your values. It’s an unfortunate truth that there are those who’ll do anything to “win,” but character and credibility count. You don’t need to play underhanded games to rise through the ranks.

* Connect with your constituencies. Smart candidates tailor their message and approach to the audience. Apply the same tactic to your coworkers; observe their unique work styles, priorities and communication preferences — and be willing to adapt your approach.

* Play by the rules. Seemingly minor slipups can have big implications on the campaign trail and at work. Avoid sticky situations by paying close attention to office protocol at your firm. If you take a misstep, make amends quickly.

* Dodge controversy. Given that 2012 is a big election year, water cooler chitchat will inevitably veer toward the polarizing topic of politics. Proceed with caution (or politely bow out completely). Getting into heated debates about non-work issues can generate unnecessary ill will.

RBR-TVBR observation: We’ve looked at the suggestions that go along with this study. Some we’ve used personally for years; others we wish we were better at. And we can say that we endorse them all. If you decided not to click on this story, but have three or four minutes, we’d suggest that it can’t hurt to give it a look.