Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Office politics

What do you know about company politics? Did you ever had the chance to stumble on them?

I am very naive person, and I used to think that I could develop and progress in any company, provided the good performance is there, and there is some good reasoning on why some things are the way they are. And that I cannot change everything, like it or not.

What I discover - and I say "discover", not know, because I keep discovering this in many organisations - is that there are always some backstage games that take place, with many different purposes: career advance, getting the easy project, lower targets, more power etc. It often doesn't matter who is wrong and who is right in these discussions, but how a situation is handled. And you might not agree with the politics, but they are there to stay - and in any organisation, be it small or big.

What should you know about politics so that you can properly prepare and navigate in the troubled seas of office politics? Well, there are quite a lot of articles and books about this, but I will give you my personal point of view - feel free to disagree! I think politics takes a great deal of networking, access to information, attention (to detail, correlation of information), all connected by your interpersonal and communication skills.

Network means knowing the right people, as many as possible, and having the ability to interact with every major person in your network often enough to find out the important facts. It also means continually expanding the network, keeping the nodes that give you the right information, and dropping/forgetting about the "nodes" that do not help. And it's also giving back something to the network, so that they keep giving you the vital information that you need.

And it's communication - as you have to communicate a lot with your "nodes", but also with the people that are not part of your network, but have an influence on your objectives. It's also a crucial skills when it comes to communicating plans, explaining the why's, providing guidance, mentoring and coaching your people, giving feedback, influencing your peers, managing up - and in every interaction in your small universe.

You might also need to know the history of the company, how things used to be done in the past, who was the main driver in various key initiatives, who would support you and who would not appreciate your input, no matter how good.

I wonder where friendship and camaraderie fit in this picture - most probably nowhere, as you are in a company, which is meant to make profit, not to provide you with friends, and fun, and joy when you work. But this might lead me to a post about happiness at work, a different story.

If you think this game is for you, then go ahead and start playing it. But make sure you are aware of its consequences as well, as it drains a lot of energy from productive initiatives, from innovation, and from management as you know it from the books, while you pay attention to all of the above... and you might not succeed in the end ;)
If you still want to know more, here is one interesting reference to look into:

Secrets to Winning at Office Politics: How to Achieve Your Goals and Increase Your Influence at Work

and some additional ones, if you really like the topic:

Games At Work: How to Recognize and Reduce Office Politics
21 Dirty Tricks at Work: How to Win at Office Politics
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success

1 comment:

Saket said...

Good topic, i find situation become more complex when people holding power are more interested in their own position and space than organization goals.