Discover the middle ground of office politics by building authentic relationships first and foremost.
How can you influence correctly and effectively? First it’s worth recognising where you stand on this matter: some people say they're no good at office politics. Or that they let their work speak for itself, and don’t want to get involved in game playing. They don’t think it’s right. We’ll look at where this puts you on the scale of office politics.
People often refer to individuals who are good at office politics in a derogatory way, but with a slight hint of jealousy, because their innate abilities often help them get ahead. When challenges come up, or disagreements occur, these people are naturally able to read the situation quickly and accurately.
The results of bad office politics can often be disruptive, and even damaging. People who practice poor forms of office politics tend to be excellent at managing up the line because that’s where they're putting most of their focus. They can often be seen sucking up to seniors.
The most important aspect of being truly good at office politics, is to focus on authentic relationship-building first and foremost. One of the biggest hallmarks of a good relationship-builder is understanding how different people operate, and communicating with them in ways that empower and resonate.
There are many ways of looking at office behaviour, but perhaps the most insightful is taken from Jane Clark's book 'Savvy'. In it, she helps categorise the different behaviours you may see at the office, in an effort to uncover best practices. Clark divides political behaviour into two main categories: the methods used by the individual, and their motives.
Naives have good intentions, but without the corresponding skills. However, When Naives encounter conflict they can be sharp to deal with. They may be overly direct, get passionate about issues, and not effectively influence those around them. Their heart's in the right place, but their execution is clumsy.
Barbarians are quite easy to identify because they’re so obvious about it. They’re rude, difficult, often insecure, and they tend to belittle other people. When you have to work with Barbarians, or report to them, the best thing is to confront their behaviour head on.
The unfortunate thing about Machiavellians is that their activities are much more subtle and hard to detect than Barbarians’. There’s often a nagging suspicion that something is 'off', but the tendency is to give the Machiavellian the benefit of the doubt, because often there’s nothing specific to point to.
Stars are often described as good leaders, resourceful, well networked, popular. They're very good at negotiating around the office and getting things done with aplomb. Observe how Stars operate, and learn from them, so you have valuable resources and tools for your own growth.
Let's take a pause at this point and think about why being political savvy, and learning to deal with various personalities and behaviours is so important in today’s global marketplace. There’s a lot more focus on what each individual contributes to the workforce, and It’s no longer enough to simply be good at your job.
Without good office politics, it’s highly likely that a work environment could become toxic. There are particular conditions that could lead a workplace to become toxic, either within teams, departments or across the organisation more broadly. This video examines some of the most common conditions to look out for.
In the workplace, focussing solely on someone’s actions, and ignoring the circumstances, intentions, or character of the person can promote the idea that tough sanctions for misdemeanours will improve performance, and that firm discipline will 'focus the mind'.
It’s a natural human tendency to form groups in which we feel comfortable and understand the basic structures. Achieving this level of comfort is an important developmental process for any group but can take a bit of getting used to. When working in a group, it’s important to know when to lead and when to follow.
There are some obvious signs that you’re caught in negative office politics. Look for these signs: Feeling caught in the middle of different factions | People stealing credit that you should receive | People encroaching on your territory | Feeling like you’re dealing with hidden agendas | Being held back from opportunities, projects, or promotions.
Who holds the power in any new group, and how can you tell? Being able to interpret power dynamics quickly is a key skill to develop when new groups form. Use these categories to assess power structures, and understand who fits in where.
According to Rob Kendall, in his book 'Blamestorming', there are five clear warning signs that a situation is about to go South; this video pinpoints them.
If you’re caught working in an environment where there’s some hazardous behaviour, it can be useful to have these tools under your belt.
When dealing with office politics the best way to cut through any of the game-playing is to clearly state that you understand the problem at hand, and then be able to back up and support your argument. We call this Building the case.
In times of conflict a lot of people will clam up when there's a heated discussion and try to be invisible. Instead, be the one who asks questions.
There are two types of anger: justified anger and tactical anger. Justified anger, is exactly that, it’s justified. Another person has taken umbrage with something you've done or said. Then there's Tactical anger that's manipulative, and is used to get you to do something, or get a reaction out of you.
This video looks at four ways of tackling difficult behaviour.
This series of videos has looked at office politics, identifying different behaviours and how to deal with them. It's important to acknowledge office politics. Rather than shying away from these activities it's vital you understand how to work with the power structures in your organisation and how to influence and get things done in the right way. This final course video contains a useful summary.
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Being the loudest in the room doesn't make you the most confident. Voice coach and author, Patsy Rodenburg puts this best by describing how we’re always in one of three circles of presence.
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