It’s not like you decided you would run for office when you accepted your first job offer out of school. Politics was something you thought only mattered in Washington or at the United Nations. When it came to your job, your career and even whether you like your boss or not, career politics was something you did if you didn’t have the right stuff to get ahead in business. Working for your self or working for the Chief Executive Officer does not make it any less difficult when it comes to navigating career politics.
Every career has it’s own set of politics no matter what your profession. If you are an accountant, teacher, animator, engineer or human resources professional, politics no matter how open the environment finds its way into your daily career life. So what does that mean to you? Well, no matter how technically good you are at your job, if you don’t know how to navigate the political landscape that is your workplace, you might as well cash it in and set yourself up to sell sea shells by the sea shore!
Understanding that politics exist in every work environment is one thing, knowing how to survive and actually succeed in tough situations is another. No one teaches you how to manage office politics in school. There are no books about, “How to Survive When Someone at Work Sticks a Knife In Your Back.” You are not taught that working means not just knowing how to do the job you were hired for but knowing how to do the people you work with as well. You are not meant to show up to work with a suit of armor ready to do battle, but understanding the subtle queues may help you avoid being sucked into unnecessary drama and understanding how the game of “work” is played.
- Know Who’s In Charge: Just because someone has a big corner office and an even bigger job title does not necessarily mean they are “in charge.” Whoever is calling the shots in front of or behind the scenes is the real power behind the throne. Knowing who that person is even if it is not glaringly obvious is your first test in knowing how to assess the political landscape to ensure your own career success.
- Create Allies: Once you have figured out who is calling the shots, it’s time to align yourself with the right people in the organization who may influence and help you when the time comes. Creating internal allies within the organization helps you not only manage those in charge but also can assure you a place at the proverbial table when it comes time to show your stuff.
- Fly Under the Radar: You may or may not have aspirations of getting ahead in the organization, but until you are fairly comfortable in understanding who is playing the game and what the rules are, it’s advisable to fly under the radar and assess from a secure position on the sidelines until you have a better grip on how to play the game of career politics.
Knowing who the players are, how the game is played and who is the favorite means you are more than hedging your bets on who the winners will be, but are also making sure you land in a good position when the battle lines are drawn and it’s time to pick sides. Being politically savvy at work ensures you not only a seat at the table but may make you yearn for a higher position one day-you just need to learn how the game is played first.
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