Forget Office Politics!

Forget Office Politics! Learn To Play ‘Your Own Game’ — Here’s How To Be A Serious Player

Did you know that more than half of US office workers think playing workplace politics will get them promoted? Yet, on the other side of the world, a third (33%) of UK workers cite office politics as a major contributing factor to feelings of unhappiness at work.

Here in Australia, there are thousands of blog articles that’ll tell you how to nail or avoid office politics. However, I don’t subscribe to either advice. I believe it’s a far better strategy to forget about what other people are doing and focus on what’s really important: your career progression.

When we think of office politics, we usually think of power struggles, back-stabbing and malicious gossip – manipulating other people for our own personal gain. It’s a nasty game to play, instead you should be focusing on: your end game. Unlike toxic office politics, it’s an honest and merit-based one.

By focusing your energies on playing your own game, you can work the corporate ladder and further your career, without losing your credibility and reputation, here’s how.

Office Politics4 tips for working the corporate ladder without office politics

Getting to executive level is hard and it’s even harder to stay there. So, when you start playing ‘your game’, remember you’re in it for the long haul. There’s very few places at the top and many people vying for those roles.

1. Share your knowledge and skills

The most essential component of working the corporate ladder is performing well in your own role. An important aspect of this, in a corporate team environment, is sharing your knowledge and skills.

A colleague once shared some advice they had been given ‘If you share your knowledge with others and do this well, you will never be redundant.’ It might seem counterintuitive to help others learn the information and skills that set you apart. However, doing so builds trust with your colleagues and respect from your seniors. It also opens future opportunities for others to be willing to share the wealth of their knowledge with you.

2. Get noticed

You want to get noticed for the right reasons. There’s an old saying that goes, “if you don’t do your own PR, nobody else will.” All it means is that you can’t rely on your successes to be known by others, unless you own them and promote them. You can do this without arrogance. When you do something well or achieve something important, let people know about it and why it’s a success for the business and not just for you.

Career coach Lea McLeod recommends that you put your personal achievements in the context of how they progress the company. This demonstrates your commitment to the team rather than your own selfish ends.

Remember to look for opportunities to credit others too. Rarely are our successes down to us alone. So praise the people that helped you along the way. This will get you noticed as a fair team player and it’ll encourage the people you praised to praise you back when it’s their turn for success.

3. Embody success

Have you ever noticed that successful people tend to share common traits? Successful people:

  • Know their purpose, their ‘why’ and have clearly defined goals
  • Are able to build relationships with many and varied individuals
  • Have drive, determination, persistence and long-term commitment
  • Admit they don’t know all the answers and have a willingness to learn
  • Are dedicated to their work and self-motivated

The most successful people are able to work with others without being pressured or influenced to join a “click”. They’re identifiable as collaborative individuals, rather than compliant groupies.

Remember, you’re playing a long game. It’s going to take time to come to fruition and even then, it’s easy enough to lose. So, take every opportunity to build and maintain professional relationships, expose yourself to a variety of environments in which you can learn and develop new skills, and commit to your goals wholeheartedly.

4. Set standards

Setting standards of behaviour is a great way to incorporate structure and “rules” to your game. They outline clearly what you do and what you don’t do. When you’re clear about your values and those of your employer, staying focused on your agenda becomes a straightforward affair.

Your standards will allow you to lead by example. They also make it easy to avoid all the pointless politics. Michelle Laforest, a senior executive at Wolters Kluwer, explains:

“…if somebody around you is trying to play organisational politics, is this person doing it for the good of the organisation or is it self serving behaviour?

“If they’re self serving…that is when you say, ‘ok, I don’t want to be involved in this’. Give yourself permission to escape.”

Play your best game and success will come

People mistakenly think that climbing the corporate ladder is about being something you’re not. In actual fact, it’s about being authentic, genuine and the best version of yourself.

Do well, for yourself and the good of the business, and you’ll get noticed. Remember to own your successes and praise others for the part they played in them. Develop the traits that define successful people. Be purposeful, willing to learn, determined and collaborative. Set clear standards for yourself and remember you’re in it for the long haul.

At the end of the day, you’re playing ‘the game’ not to beat others but to improve your own knowledge and experience, and therefore grow your career. If you’re looking for support to better understand strategies to help you succeed in the workplace, consider Behind Closed Doors as your support and professional development network.

I would love to hear how you navigate organisational politics and whether you have any tips for others.

Warmly, Donny

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