Organisational politics

Two things happen when you’re too good at office politics:

  1. Your performance drops.
  2. Your co-workers become suspicious because they don’t trust you; as a result, your influence actually diminishes.

Clearly, you don’t want to be an expert politicker. But since politics exist in every organisation, you need to be competent at politicking. Otherwise, you can’t make your best-possible contribution to your organisation and career. Just as bad, you’ll be over-looked and under-appreciated.

Stephen Robbins and Phillip Hunsaker suggest the following tips in their book, Training in Interpersonal Skills:

  • Speak and persuade with benefits to the organisation and conceal any self-interest.
  • Gain control of scarce expertise, knowledge and organisational resources. The more critical to the organisation you seem to be, the more influence you have and the more indispensable you are.
  • Be visible and make sure that powerful people in the organisation are aware of your contribution. Progress reports, attending functions, being active in professional associations and networking are all ways to increase your visibility without being a braggart.
  • Find a mentor and powerful allies to guide you, keep you informed and speak up on your behalf.
  • Support your boss. When your boss is successful, you shine by association. When your boss is on the ‘loser track’, get a new one so you don’t suffer by association.
  • Develop coalitions, networks of like-minded, influential people. The more supporters you have, the greater your influence.
  • Remember that power is effective when it’s in balance. As soon as you use it, especially against someone, it gets out of balance and people seek to even things out. Just as in physics, for every action there is a reaction.

Here are four other tips to help you achieve competence in organisational politics:

  1. Manage your personal brand.
  2. Fit in with and contribute to your organisation’s culture and values.
  3. Stay away from people with poor reputations for performance and personal values.
  4. ‘Let one hand wash the other’ by helping people whenever you can.

Add these political skills to your inventory of management and technical skills to round out your ability to make a difference.