How To Put A Positive Spin On Office Politics
Office politics aren't going away. Some people have power or decision-making authority while others don't. To succeed in the workplace, you shouldn't wish office politics away or pretend they don't exist.
Instead, Art Petty, a coach and speaker, says you just need to reframe how you think about them. If you sometimes feel frustrated with how office politics play out in your organization, read on. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we discuss Petty's ideas for how you can positively engage in office politics and advance your career.
Reframe how you view office politics. Resistance is futile, says Petty, unless you are comfortable ceding your autonomy to the whims of others. Make up your mind that you must learn to engage in the workplace political environment in a manner that supports your values and allows you to maintain your integrity.
Strive to better support your boss. Your boss is (or should be) your one natural ally. Your boss can choose you to be successful, reward you with plum projects and support your career advancement—or not, says Petty. Much of this is up to you. Regardless of your boss' style, you have a vested interest in their success. Ideally, you are tuned-in to helping your boss forward her agenda, achieve his goals and strengthen her position in the organization. You can start your influence development process by working closer to home and tuning in to your boss' needs.
Focus on solving small things. You're running a long race as you strive to grow your influence, which is why Petty suggests starting small. Volunteer to help solve some of those vexing challenges your boss shared with you. Or, gain support from your boss to work with team members to fix something. Just remember, notes Petty, to give your boss the visibility (and by default, yourself) when you start fixing things around the workplace.
Step into the gray zone and begin leading. Petty says that as you gain the confidence of your peers, colleagues, and importantly your boss, look for opportunities to solve problems in the gray-zone—that area that exists somewhere between functional, divisional or positional boundaries. It's no one's land, where ownership is ambiguous, yet the issues crossing this zone are visible and vexing to others.
Say "yes" often. According to Petty, there's a powerful benefit that accrues from increasing your "yes" count. It's called reciprocity, and it is a fundamental norm of humans that if someone does something for a person, they feel compelled to repay you.
Become a boundary spanner and a network connector. The stronger your network, the more influence and power you have at your disposal. Petty advises approaching people with a genuine interest in their work and empathy for their challenges. And, he says, always find ways to help when appropriate.
Let the right people know you can do more. Many people express a desire to get ahead, do more or take on more significant, more organizationally important roles. Petty encourages professionals to let those in the positions of power and decision-making know they are ready, willing and anxious to do more.
Not all office politics are bad. In fact, when you take the right approach with office politics, you can help build a solid reputation for yourself. The key is engaging in the right kind of politics instead of complaining about them.
Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Petty serves senior executives, business owners and high-potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor.