At times in my consulting and training work, different managers will tell me that they ignore office politics and just do their jobs. They explain that good work and a high performing team are all they need in their management role to be influential in their organizations and to support their team.
I explain that excelling in these areas will certainly take them far but in the complex world of modern organizations and how people behave in them, managers cannot ignore office politics. When they do ignore office politics, it is often to their own hurt and more importantly to the detriment of their team.
It is wise to understand this powerful force of human behavior and find a way to get in the game, play ethically, and do well. This is far better than the alternative of ignoring the existence of office politics and being harmed by the path it takes in the organization.
Office Politics: Good or Bad? They’re Neither!
The fact is that politics are everywhere. Forget government–we know it exists there! Politics also exist in families, home owner associations, volunteer groups, churches and synagogues, and yes in business. Where three or four human beings are gathered together there will be politics. Once people with different values, priorities, and interaction styles come together, it makes sense that they will compete for influence and for the control of limited resources. And, just like that, politics begins!
In the video below from the Harvard Business Series, authors Dr. Linda Hill and Kent Lineback discuss the best way to play office politics. This term alone–play office politics–is negative. But, we will not throw out the baby with the bath water. We can overlook the video title. It is still a fact that if you put more than a few people together in a group, you will have politics. So, maybe we should grit our teeth and accept the title and more importantly the words of wisdom.
In the video, Linda and Kent make a compelling argument why managers cannot ignore office politics. They also provide some useful strategies for developing a network to play the office politics game effectively. Five insightful points from this video that I want to highlight for you to listen for are the following:
- Find and make allies.
- Build and manage three networks: operational, strategic, development.
- Who you know determines what you get to do.
- What you get to do determines what you know.
- How do you make other people feel when they work with you? This determines your staying power.
I’ll let Linda and Kent take it from here.
So you think you can ignore office politics? Think Again!
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