In a recent national survey conducted by Bridge by Instructure Inc., 53% of employees believe that “engaging in workplace politics was a moderately important factor in being promoted.” Naturally, we all want to succeed. We expect that success is achieved based on our undeniable hard work and skill. The above quote, however, raises a concern over the role office politics may play in advancement.
A mindtools.com article equated “good” office politics to networking and / or stakeholder management. “Office politics often have a negative connotation because of the negative influential behaviors associated with a person trying [to] achieve goals of getting to the top. There’s a thin line between persuasion and manipulation, and the negative connotation exists because of the few bad eggs that use unethical tactics in their pursuits,” explains E.M. Raws in a Chron online article. If all office politics isn’t bad, what exactly is “good” office politics? How do you conduct positive office politics?
Kathleen Kelley Reardon, in a Harvard Business Review article, explains that the degree to which an employee may have to engage in office politics largely depends upon the work environment. She lists four levels of politics in organizations:
- Minimally political organizations: in this environment, expectations for leadership, management, and promotions are made clear. Camaraderie exists, and although rules occasionally are bent and favors are granted, they are not done underhandedly.
- Moderately political organizations: in this environment, rules are widely understood and formally sanctioned. Political behavior could be denied since it is exists in a low current state.
- Highly political organizations: in this environment, who you know is more important than what you know. Rules are invoked when convenient to those in power. In-groups and out-groups are clearly identified.
- Pathologically political organizations: in this dangerous environment nearly every goal is achieved by going around people or formal procedures. Distrust permeates everything.
Reardon encourages identifying the type of political arena you work in and if you are a good match currently. If not, she notes “…it never hurts to learn about politics and to stretch your style to accommodate a variety of levels.” How so? She lists the following tips:
- Read about workplace politics and observe those who are skilled
- Try tweaking how and when you say things
- Consider to whom you’re giving power and alter that if it’s getting you nowhere
- Break out of dysfunctional patterns
- Be less predictable
In addition, Monster.com shares some positive strategies to use in environments with higher levels of work politics:
- Be alert
- Ask respected higher-ups for counsel periodically
- Perform deliberate acts of kindness
- Do visible important tasks
How do you feel about workplace politics? Do you work at an organization that displays high levels of politics? How do you handle that environment successfully? Feel free to share your thoughts in our comments section below.