How to Play Office Politics to Your Advantage
Like it or not, office politics are part and parcel of business life. The manager who learns how to swim in that “pond” will get more resources, accomplish more, and expand career opportunities.
There are a number of things in life often labeled "necessary evils." Examples include in-laws, trips to the dentist, cleaning out the garage, meeting your teenage daughter's new boyfriend, etc.
In the business world, office politics fit the category of "necessary evils." Some people thrive in playing office politics; many do not. However, politics have been part of business life for a long time and aren't going away any time soon. If a manager is interested in succeeding, learning how to play the game should be on the list of musts.
What Are Office Politics?
Defining office politics is a good start - or rather, recognizing what office politics is not.
Office politics is not the normal disagreements and squabbles that inevitably arise when groups of people must interact in relatively close quarters over a period of time. It isn't about the guy in the cubicle across the aisle who plays his radio too loud, the woman who insists on telling you about her date last night, or the man who takes 15 coffee breaks every day. Nor is it about merely "sucking up to the boss," agreeing with everyone, or retreating into a shell and not offering any input into decision-making.
Office politics is about knowing who the "power brokers" are, knowing management styles, reading and dealing with business personalities, and navigating the minefield in an office to get things done.
Executives and managers have favorites - favorite employees, ideas, and ways of dealing with peers and subordinates. Office politics involves learning how to deal with these favorites and how to use them to one's advantage without merely becoming a kowtowing sycophant.
Navigating Politics is a Challenging Process
Learning how to navigate office politics is challenging. It involves as much understanding of personalities and management styles as it does dealing with specific events.
Office politics usually surrounds issues of authority - who calls the shots, who has the final word on items ranging from policy to hiring to promotion. Learning and understanding how the "higher-ups" in an organization manage and what types of personalities they have will help a fleet manager use office politics to his or her best advantage.
This can be easier said than done. Sometimes senior managers can have big egos, and subordinates become intimidated, lay low, and go along. However, this tactic can easily backfire since one of the most important assets a manager can have is confidence, backed with information and data.