DJ: While office politics may not be explicitly taught in business schools, it is a critical skill for success in any work environment. At first, I resisted the idea of playing politics. One time, I told my late dad that if getting ahead requires rough tactics, he should have taught me knife skills instead of life skills. But you know what, eventually I learned that workplace politics can be ethical too. We can’t paint it using just one brush — evil. We are social creatures. We interact every day to achieve our goals. Understanding and engaging with the priorities and perspectives of colleagues and stakeholders are necessary for advancing ideas and projects.
Coming to work with a set play is part of the job. I used to wear my refusal to engage in office politics as a badge of honor. Today, I’m seeing the importance of how ideas are pushed forward with social capital. You don’t have to turn non-biodegradable. Plastic. Say you have a project that needs approval. Companies have limited resources. Understanding the approvers’ priorities and perspective is crucial. Engaging with them beforehand to learn what they are looking for helps you present your idea in a compelling way. By doing your due diligence and being purposefully collaborative, you are a strategic thinker who advances value positively.
Do not neglect relationships with people who have the power to advocate for your job. Who champions or mentors others? Who are the brains behind the business? I was at a forum yesterday. I discretely made an exit. But I caught my ruinous behavior while at the parking lot. So, I went back to the venue to say goodbye to colleagues in the industry. It’s good manners. They’re gracious hosts. And while doing so, I was absorbed in a good exchange of ideas that could move the sector forward. I’m introverted and I understand when you say you’re shy. I encourage you, though, to actively collaborate and communicate with key players. No matter what you’re feeling. By going out of one’s comfort zone, a person can form coalitions of support that can help achieve the goals of both the individual and the organization.
The head-in-the-sand mindset needs updating. Have you heard people say they let their work speak for itself? Well, work can’t really talk. It is the people around it that gives it a voice. Invisible contributions end up neglected. But rather than simply narrating one’s accomplishments, frame them in terms of the value they bring to the organization and your stakeholders. Don’t say, “We did this last June” for example. Rather present the gap, the solution implemented last June and then state the positive, lasting change it is creating. You can wisely communicate your contributions and impact effectively without resorting to empty fawning or manipulation.
Reputation precedes career advancement. And now that I’m an entrepreneur, I learned reputation precedes revenue. Relationships are a currency, too, that you can leverage to open growth opportunities. Building effective relationships and sucking up are two different things. Laying the groundwork and stabbing people in the back are not the same. Appreciating a person’s contribution is different from empty flattery. Being in the limelight without working hard is bad. Know the difference. Don’t let being shy hold you back from building relationships and pursuing your career goals. By having a clear-eye view, you can not only survive, but thrive in any work environment.