Office Politics. The term itself brings up many emotions in people. Some view it as almost always negative and would prefer not to get involved. Others argue that playing the game is critical to your success in the workplace. It gets tricky, though, when we watch others get ahead, because of their relationships, instead of their work. What's a person to do?
Perhaps we should start with a definition because most people recognize when they see it in action but find it difficult to define. According to Wikipedia, "Office politics is simply how power gets worked out on a practical day-to-day basis." According to BNET Business Dictionary, "Office politics involves the complex network of power and status that exists within any group of people."
Now the question, do we have to get involved? Let's focus on the training department, for just a minute. Aren't we always trying to justify our existence, broaden our reach and make an impact? Don't we need to gain support for our initiatives and maximize the value of our department? Aren't we always fighting for resources so that we can accomplish our goals?
Let's face it. If we want to raise the profile of our department, we need to be politically savvy. At Langevin, we've even devoted a section to politics in our The Advanced Training Manager Workshop. In it, we explain how to navigate the politics of training in your organization. Specifically, we cover how to assess your organization's political landscape and how to defend against devious political tactics.
I'll admit that I never gave this much thought, early on in my career. Interestingly enough, with ALL my education, I don't recall ever learning how to play the game of politics. Apparently, I'm not alone on this. Corporate Coach Dr. Lois Frankel has written many books about it, including "Nice Girls Don't Get The Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers." Somehow, I feel better knowing I'm not the only one!
In her book, Dr. Frankel says that women don't play the game. We see work as an event where everyone comes together to play nicely. Not only is business a game, it's a game that changes. It has rules, boundaries, winners, and losers. Never forget that you're there to win the game of business.
She goes on to say that no one gets promoted purely because of work. Likability, strategic thinking, and networking are all part of success. If you're not wasting a little time building relationships, you're doing something wrong.
Other mistakes women are guilty of? We make our offices too girly (it diminishes our credibility), we skip too many meetings, we're too modest, we ask for permission instead of presenting a plan, we explain too much, and we cry. Beside the last one, she writes one word: DON'T! I guess just like there's no crying in baseball, there's no crying at work.
So, how do I play the game? I will continue to give my best work possible. I will also continue to fight for things that I believe in. I will always be diplomatic, respectful, and sincere. What about you? Do you know how to play?