Be savvy about work place politics
Prime the pump
June 18, 2024

Be savvy about work place politics

Recently, someone asked my advice on how to deal with an issue in their organization. It involved a supervisor who, under the guise of ‘concern for her direct reports’ was using her influence to discredit the manager to every new employee who entered the organization. The supervisor was panning the company’s policies to new employees and gave them the impression that while she had their best interests at heart, the manager was heartless and was only interested in getting the work done.

The situation was creating mayhem within the company. The manager felt like he was being bullied out of the organization by his staff. It was bad. When I asked if I could speak with the manager myself, the man was an emotional wreck. He said it was as though the supervisor was casting a spell on every employee who joined the company. What the employees did not realize was the supervisor was a politician who was actively involved in office politics – dirty nonetheless. Whilst, the manager on the other hand, was an inactive politician.

Niven Postma, in a Harvard Business Review article titled “You Can’t Sit Out Office Politics said “Office politics aren’t something you can sit out. Most people look down upon them, but the truth is, they are a part of every organization.” Today we revisit the dynamics of politics in the workplace.

Several years ago, as a young professional, I was put off by blatant strategic moves of office politicians in the company where I worked. I thought it was so unfair and I wanted to have nothing to do with the players and with office politics.

One day, in conversation with my boss, he said to me, “fussing over office politics would not change the price of eggs, nor would it help you. You need to become a politician too. “Becoming a politician does not mean that you must play dirty, but it takes you out of a position of being influenced by political moves to being the influencer. It moves you from a position of guessing what is going on to a position of knowing what is going on. From a position of being controlled to being the controller.”

My boss said sometimes you must pretend that you are a fan of people you detest. However, it was through experience that I truly understood the dynamics of office politics. I discovered that I couldn’t escape it and that it will take an interest in me whether I took an interest in it or not. I also discovered that office politics meant knowing how to pick my battles determining which battles could be won and at what cost, who to challenge, and how often should

I put up a challenge. It meant that I must recognize the players within the organization and their areas of influence. It meant I understood the advantage of relationship building and nurturing.

After all, “Office politics is not what you think I am doing; it’s why you think I am doing it.”

Inside Out – people performance.

Today, we draw from Lucio Buffalmano’s article on The Power Moves, titled “7 Steps to Master

Office Politics: A field Guide.” Buffalmano concluded that office politics and politically savvy career strategies are crucial to your career succession. One of the steps shared was “know who matters: The org Power Chart.”

According to Buffalmano, you need to know who matters around you and where you stand in relation to others. You are always at the centre of your personal chart and it’s important for you to know who you should be networking with, who you should be careful around, and who can give you the opportunities that will change your career for the better.

Buffalmano recommended that you personalize the organizational chart and start there. He suggested that in drawing your power map that you consider that not all positions are created equal. Therefore, the energy of people in those positions is vital. Buffalmano described some people as stationary, some on the upswing, and other going downward. Those on the downward are on their way out.

He said the general use is, those going down, no matter their position, are useless and actively harmful. They are on their way out because they ‘messed’ with someone very powerful. A smart politician knows not to get too close to people who are on the downward. Instead, you want to associate with ‘up-swingers’. They are friends with people with greater influence than themselves and those people can help them up the ladder.

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