Office Politics: Know The Rules Of The Game

Do you know the unwritten rules of the game or what it really takes to succeed at work? Whether you are a part of a large organization or own your own business, building networks, alliances and influence to manage office politics is the foundation for success.

To understand office politics you need to understand the rules but these can be hard to come by. Largely this is because being political is considered dishonest and manipulative.

Not all politics is bad, often those who master the unwritten rules know how to work well with others to achieve results. Being politically savvy is knowing how decisions are made and who to influence in order to get things done. Here are five key rules for navigating office politics.

Focus On The Informal Part Of Your Job

The unwritten part of the game is that delivering results is only half of your job. Position descriptions, performance appraisals and development plans focus on what tasks you need to achieve without detailing how to influence others and gain their support.

To excel you need to also handle the informal aspects of work. This means thinking about how much time you sit at your desk completing actual tasks versus building relationships.

To manage the informal aspects of your job you need to develop internal networks by taking the time to communicate with your colleagues and create buy in. Without doing this you are unlikely to have enough support to ensure your promotion or idea is supported.

Know Your Supporters

To master the game at work you need to know who your potential supporters are, what their objectives are, how they think and operate. Your supporters can change depending on the situation but often include managers, colleagues, direct reports, gate-keepers or key decision makers in an organization.

Identifying these sponsors early on and building a relationship with them will ensure that when you pitch an idea or sell a project you do this in a way that speaks to them and gains their support.

Build Advocates

Rarely will an idea, project, promotion or any major decision at work be approved by just one person. Often decisions are made by consensus which means they need the support of many backers.

To achieve results it is essential to develop advocates that have a seat at the decision table and are respected. Some advocates and decision makers need to be managed carefully because their open support could actually hinder a project.

To ensure you have the right support it is vital to know who all the advocates are and how they are viewed by others.

Carefully building and maintaining the right advocates will ensure that what you are trying to achieve is supported because of who it is associated with.

Create Consensus

To get an idea off the ground involves thinking about how you can bring others along with you and align your interests.

Creating consensus amongst key player is about considering all the paths to an outcome and finding the one that most people can agree on.

Often this is not about finding the cheapest or fastest way to a result but rather the way that best resolves competing interests. Managing these informal aspects requires regular consultation, engagement and communication to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Understand Your Business

It doesn’t matter what role you are in, to manage workplace politics you need to understand your business and how you fit into the organization.

Too often good ideas fail because they don’t consider the business strategy or external environment. For example, when asking for a raise you have to consider the financial state of your organization and what impact this has on your request.

Knowing your business means defining what success looks like for your organization and how your interests support that.

Each of these tactics can be used as part of any daily routine at work to overcome challenges associated with playing the game and enhance performance.