Management and Career Development:The Joys of Office Politics

Managing Office Politics

Management and Career Development:The Joys of Office Politics

Advice from Wendy Smith.  Wendy is a  Career and Life Coach helping you find fresh perspectives on your life including your career.  You can book a FREE coaching session or find out more at this link

Politics – A definition – “activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization” Oxford Dictionaries
This is a re-post, with some slight amendments, of something I wrote a while ago. But I think it is useful and I hope you will agree!

Managing Office Politics – I don’t play chess.  I admire those who do – for me the game is too slow to enjoy.  But I do know the rules!

For me, managing office politics is just like that.  You may decide not to ‘play’ but you do need to know how the game works.

This is true in most work situations but particularly if  you lead or manage a vital project or programme.  If you don’t manage your stakeholders, your initiative may be shot down in ways you never expected.

Stakeholder management (managing those with an interest in what you are doing) doesn’t work if you don’t make sure you understand the politics of the organisation and your particular part of it.

Wherever you have a group of people, you will have a degree of politics operating.

People will usually jockey for position, form alliances, decide who they do like and who they don’t!  They will come to the group with different personalities, sets of values and opinions. Over time a group/team develops a set of norms or standards and ways of working. They develop a pecking order – a hierarchy of status and influence.  This may not necessarily reflect the organisation chart.  For example, the person who controls the stationery cupboard can have quite a lot of power to disrupt their colleague’s day, if they choose to do so, in lots of offices!

If you don’t understand the influence-hierarchy you can find it difficult to get things done, particularly if you are new to an organisation.  And the hierarchy will change over time, as people strive successfully and unsuccessfully to achieve greater influence.

You need to understand the office politics, even if you find the concept of managing office politics distasteful.

And, you will be very lucky indeed if someone actually tells you the rules of the game! It is far better to understand what is going on and  adopt a strategy to keep the negative effects of office politics on you and your work to a minimum.

In reality, it is useful to be regarded as inside the influence group, rather than outside looking in. What you are probably best to aim for is to manage any effects of office politics that directly relate to you!  Then turn them in your favour, or at least minimise any possible harmful e effects on you and your work.

Office politics in its crudest form usually occurs when one, or more than one, person holds (or is seen as holding) a significant amount of power within the office.  This may be formal power – the CEO’s private office is usually a hotbed of office politics – or informal power. Formal power is pretty easy to read.  And, for example, PAs to top managers, who may all wield considerable power,  are fairly easy to discover.

Informal power can arise in a number of ways! Someone with depth of knowledge of the organisation, the key subject matter expert, can accrue significant amounts of informal power.    And sometimes this informal power can be abused; for example, the ‘office bully’ or those in a relationship with someone holding formal power who are unscrupulous players of the office politics’ game.  You need to listen and observe the group you work with and its surrounding organisation to find out more about these!

What can you do to make office politics work for you?

  1. Try to get to know the politically powerful within your organisation.  Don’t be afraid of them – they are often much, more receptive to people who aren’t intimidated by them!  
  2. Make sure they understand what you are trying to achieve.  Deal with their reservations and make sure they understand that you are taking on board their views.   
  3. If someone does try to undermine you, don’t get drawn in. Simply be bold and assertive, but not aggressive.  Make your points clearly and offer good will.  If their negative behaviour persists, then ring-fence them – make sure they have as little as possible to do with your work.
  4. People often play office politics because they are unsure about their own abilities and achievements.  They try to conceal what they believe are their shortcomings behind a façade and to make others feel they are less worthy. Don’t let them undermine your self-esteem – be proud of your own accomplishments and make sure that your efforts are recognised by those who matter. 
  5. Don’t get into direct competition if you can avoid it – it’s a waste of your time! If people know you are doing a good job consistently there is far less opportunity for you to be undermined. 
  6. Forming alliances with senior managers and using them as sponsors and champions for your work can increase your own informal power.  If you have a formal sponsor, make sure they are well informed and really up to date with your project or programme and can talk about it fluently to their colleagues.   As with all stakeholder management – targeted communication of  good quality of information is key to you and your project or programme’s success.

If you want to know more or do want to play the office politics game then here are some books that might be useful!

‘Office Politics: How work really works’ by Guy Browning   http://amzn.to/efTzjO

‘100+ Tactics for Office Politics (Barron’s Business Success)’ by Casey Hawley   http://amzn.to/hkBR6r

For the really evil!

’21 Dirty Tricks at Work: How to Win at Office Politics’ by Mike Phipps, Colin Gautrey http://amzn.to/fFMHQ4

If you would like some more advice of thriving at work, please get in touch.

Wendy Smith is a  Life Coach helping you find fresh perspectives on your life including your career. She helps people lead happier lives and feel more fulfilled. Need help finding work, with problems at work, at home or with relationships? Book a FREE coaching session with Wendy or find out more at this link

Office Politics

Office Politics

Management and Career Development:The Joys of Office Politics

Office Politics: Politics – A definition – “activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization” Oxford Dictionaries

This is a re-post, with some slight amendments, of something I wrote a while ago. But I think it is useful and I hope you will agree!

I don’t play chess.  I admire those who do – for me the game is too slow to enjoy.  But I do know the rules!

For me, Office Politics is just like that.  You may decide not to ‘play’ but you do need to know how the game works.

This is true in most work situations but particularly if  you lead or manage a vital project or programme.  If you don’t manage your stakeholders, your initiative may be shot down in ways you never expected.

Stakeholder management (managing those with an interest in what you are doing) doesn’t work if you don’t make sure you understand the politics of the organisation and your particular part of it.

Wherever you have a group of people, you will have a degree of politics operating.

People will usually jockey for position, form alliances, decide who they do like and who they don’t!  They will come to the group with different personalities, sets of values and opinions. Over time a group/team develops a set of norms or standards and ways of working. They develop a pecking order – a hierarchy of status and influence.  This may not necessarily reflect the organisation chart.  For example, the person who controls the stationery cupboard can have quite a lot of power to disrupt their colleague’s day, if they choose to do so, in lots of offices!

If you don’t understand the influence-hierarchy you can find it difficult to get things done, particularly if you are new to an organisation.  And the hierarchy will change over time, as people strive successfully and unsuccessfully to achieve greater influence.

You need to understand the office politics, even if you find the concept distasteful. And, you will be very lucky indeed if someone actually tells you the rules of the game! It is far better to understand what is going on and  adopt a strategy to keep the negative effects of office politics on you and your work to a minimum.

In reality, it is useful to be regarded as inside the influence group, rather than outside looking in. What you are probably best to aim for is to manage any effects of office politics that directly relate to you!  Then turn them in your favour, or at least minimise any possible harmful e effects on you and your work.

Office politics in its crudest form usually occurs when one, or more than one, person holds (or is seen as holding) a significant amount of power within the office.  This may be formal power – the CEO’s private office is usually a hotbed of office politics – or informal power. Formal power is pretty easy to read. And, for example, PAs to top managers, who may all wield considerable power,  are fairly easy to discover.  Informal power is generally much more difficult to identify and work with. 

Informal power can arise in a number of ways! Someone with depth of knowledge of the organisation, the key subject matter expert, can accrue significant amounts of informal power.    And sometimes this informal power can be abused; for example, the ‘office bully’ or those in a relationship with someone holding formal power who are unscrupulous players of the office politics’ game.  You need to listen and observe the group you work with and its surrounding organisation to find out more about these!

What can you do to make office politics work for you?

  1. Try to get to know the politically powerful within your organisation.  Don’t be afraid of them – they are often much, more receptive to people who aren’t intimidated by them!  
  2. Make sure they understand what you are trying to achieve.  Deal with their reservations and make sure they understand that you are taking on board their views.   
  3. If someone does try to undermine you, don’t get drawn in. Simply be bold and assertive, but not aggressive.  Make your points clearly and offer good will.  If their negative behaviour persists, then ring-fence them – make sure they have as little as possible to do with your work.
  4. People often play office politics because they are unsure about their own abilities and achievements.  They try to conceal what they believe are their shortcomings behind a façade and to make others feel they are less worthy. Don’t let them undermine your self-esteem – be proud of your own accomplishments and make sure that your efforts are recognised by those who matter. 
  5. Don’t get into direct competition if you can avoid it – it’s a waste of your time! If people know you are doing a good job consistently there is far less opportunity for you to be undermined. 
  6. Forming alliances with senior managers and using them as sponsors and champions for your work can increase your own informal power.  If you have a formal sponsor, make sure they are well informed and really up to date with your project or programme and can talk about it fluently to their colleagues.   As with all stakeholder management – targeted communication of  good quality of information is key to you and your project or programme’s success.

If you want to know more or do want to play the office politics game then here are some books that might be useful!

‘Office Politics: How work really works’ by Guy Browning   http://amzn.to/efTzjO

‘100+ Tactics for Office Politics (Barron’s Business Success)’ by Casey Hawley   http://amzn.to/hkBR6r

For the really evil!

’21 Dirty Tricks at Work: How to Win at Office Politics’ by Mike Phipps, Colin Gautrey http://amzn.to/fFMHQ4

I have started a new Career Development Group on LinkedIn where you will find lots of tips and other resources in due course – you can join it by clicking here 

Wendy is the The Career Coach – helping you to find fresh perspectives on your Job Search and Career. She helps you work towards your goals and aspirations, in a way that fits in with both work and home life. Email her at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com,  find her on Skype at wendymason14, or call +44 (0) 2081239146 (02081239146 for UK callers) or +1 262 317 9016 if you are in the US.

A free trial/consultation allows you to try phone coaching from the comfort of your own home and without risk. Don’t forget to ask about the Summer Special Offer 

CV review and interview preparation and coaching to improve your confidence and self esteem are a speciality[wpsocialite]

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Prepare for work

Prepare for work

Prepare for work – today we have a guest post from Maria Rainier who is a freelance blogger and writer for www.onlinedegrees.org. This is Maria’s helpful advice to young graduates who are about to take on their first full-time role after leaving college.

Secretary Spread, Office Politics and Other Things Young Professionals Should Prepare Themselves For

You finally made it. You passed your exams—some with flying colors, others not so much—you walked across the stage, and are now ready to start the next phase of your life as a working professional. While you might be ready for the professional challenges thrown your way, there are various aspects of working life you’ll undoubtedly have to get used to.

It’s a very different world than the college campus you’ve grown accustomed to the last these last four years or so. So, to help make the transition period a little easier, I’ve outlined a few things to look out for below. These aren’t exactly issues stressed within your average college lecture, but they are things you need to know. Read on to learn more.

Secretary Spread

This first one might sound a bit odd, but believe me it’s a real problem. I’m sure you all remember being warned about the “freshman 15” when you started college, well think of this as the same thing, but for people in the working world. I personally had never heard the term until it happened to me.

Unlike many of my friends, I LOST weight in college—my first year alone I dropped 25 pounds and was in the best shape of my life. As the semesters rolled by, my weight fluctuated very little and I maintained my fit physique. However, that all changed the instant I graduated. Suddenly, the pencil skirts I had so easily squeezed in and out of were no busting at the seams.

I didn’t get it. What had changed? Then it dawned on me—my body was dormantly stuck behind a desk for the majority of my waking hours. Before I would sit for an hour or hour and a half, take a few notes then make my trek across campus for the next one. I can’t even tell you how many miles I likely walked. On top of that I was working out regularly, which, unfortunately I became horrible about doing once I started working professionally. Then there were the company lunches and dinners.

Between retirement parties, client meetings and quarterly feasts for whatever project we were currently working on, I was surrounded by lavish food I personally never sought out myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining that I worked for a company that actually endorsed this sort of activity, it’s just that my waistline couldn’t handle the extra calories. I was eating way more than I had in college and my body was noticing. After my first year, I had gained a shameless 10 pounds. One day my own mother was like “uh-oh, guess you fell victim to secretary spread!”

Luckily, I found the error in my ways and corrected it, but many never even notice until they’e packed on 20, 30, or even 40 pounds. So, to keep this from happening to you simply keep up with your fitness routine (or start one if you haven’t) and eat like you’re metabolism has already caught up with you. If you don’t, it will before you know it, so might as well be proactive about it.

Office Politics

Now, onto more serious topics—not that health and fitness isn’t important, but they are very manageable—whereas this is completely beyond your control. Now, some of you may have already dealt with this in previous jobs or internships, but in your first full-time job, they are a completely different animal. Sure, you may have been frustrated at your last gig, but there was likely a light at the end of the tunnel because you knew you weren’t going to be wherever you were forever.

You had plans to graduate, move, and start your career. Well, now here you are—starting your career—and you’re faced with some not nice situations. People making you look bad in front of your boss, coworkers stealing credit that should have been yours, colleagues getting promotions they simply aren’t qualified for…and why? All because they knew the right people, or the boss likes them best.

Sure, it’s not the least bit fair, but it is something that happens quite frequently—and this time there’s no quick escape route. I’m not saying you’ll be in that same position with that same company forever, but you will likely be there for more than a “semester or two” as you were with your previous jobs. You want to stay, learn what you can, then move on—and that usually takes 2 years minimum, so you could be looking at quite the marathon here.

If you feel you’re in the middle of some particularly nasty office politics, all you can do is smile, put your best professional foot forward and kill them with kindness. You might not think so, but your competency will pay off in the end. It will be a test in maturity and professionalism, but you can do it.

Extremely Limited Availability

A final thing to look out for as you immerse yourself in the working world is your extremely limited schedule that is sure to hit you like a brick. At least that’s what happened to me and many of my friends. We went into our jobs thinking, “You mean I only have to be here from 8-5 five days a week? Piece of cake, I can handle that.” We had all successfully juggled jobs, internships, school and extracurriculars while in college, so why would we not be able to make a simple 40-ish hour work week work for us? Well, we quickly learned that it was a lot more strenuous than we first thought.

Unlike school, work is set around SOMEONE ELSE’S schedule. Meetings can’t be “pushed back” because you have a huge midterm. Classes can’t be skipped because you stayed out too late. Work and life goes on—day in and day out. Even when you’re sleeping, people across the globe are keeping things going. You don’t get a week off just because, you have to earn that time. And you can’t “drop a class” because you’re going through a rough time. Everything is what it is and you can’t change it.

I found myself slowly becoming less and less social. I could no longer make it to every happy hour. Outings had to be skipped—I was a grown up with grown-up responsibilities that would not wait. So, if you’re planning to have “one more beer with the guys,” double check your schedule first to make sure you don’t have anything ready and waiting for you tomorrow morning.

This post was not meant to scare you about the impending responsibilities waiting for you, but rather PREPARE you for them. Whether you want to admit it or not, they’re there, unavoidably waiting for you. If someone had given me a heads up about these, I may have taken a bit more advantage of my last few months in college.

Maria Rainier is a freelance blogger and writer for www.onlinedegrees.org. Maria believes that online degrees and online universities are the future of higher learning. She is interested in all things concerned with higher education and is particularly passionate about life after college. Please share your comments with her.

 

 

King, Queen or Pawn – the Joys of Office Politics – Part 2 – Winning Support

A very good friend of mine had a lot of experience of both supporting and reviewing high profile government programmes. We worked together on a large complex programme that was beset with issues of office politics and complex (and often competing) stakeholder needs.  He read my post on office politics and here is his response – he is happy for me to share it with you.  It includes some very important advice for interim managers and consultants in particular. Thank you Howard!

“Inevitably large programmes have a number of stakeholders. The first thing to realise is that not all those stakeholders regard the programme as having the same priority-rating on their own “To Do” lists. A simple example is a major Change Programme which one stakeholder sees it as a major opportunity and another as a major threat.

The next thing to realise is that simply following process, e.g. PRINCE2 and/or MSP will not guarantee full control. I reviewed one big programme (via OGC) where for two years it was being reported as well on-time for delivery, then suddenly, as if out to the blue, it was announced 6 months behind schedule. The reason? While the monthly programme update reports from the front-line all arrived on time, they did not tell the whole truth, as those reporting only wanted to give the good news, not the bad. Pro-active reporting similar to audit would have prevented that.

The third major action is to be actively supportive, while not trying to grab the credit and the glory. When it comes to making presentations to senior management, e.g. the Permanent Secretary, Government Minister, make sure you always take a purely supportive role. Let the person who engaged you take the credit for doing so, not the blame for having to do so. Just remember that cartoon of the two cows standing in a field. The cow on the left says “Moo”. The cow on the right shouts “You b*****d, I was going to say that!”

Getting people on-side and supportive is what brings success – and lasting friendships”

Howard and I did form a very strong friendship after we had been through our baptism of fire and I am very grateful to him for contributing to this post.

 

 

King, Queen or Pawn – the Joys of Office Politics

Politics – activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization Oxford Dictionaries

I don’t play chess.  I admire those who do but for me the game is too slow to enjoy.  But I do know the rules!

For me Office Politics is just like that.  You may decide not to ‘play’ but you need to know how it works.

This is particularly true if you manage a project or a change programme.  If you don’t manage your stakeholders, your project or programme may be shot down in ways you never expected.

Stakeholder management doesn’t work if you don’t make sure you understand the politics of the organisation.

Wherever you have a group of people you will have a degree of politics operating.  People will usually jockey for position, form alliances, decide who they do like and who they don’t!  People will come to the group with different personalities, sets of values and opinions. Over time a group develops a set of norms or standards and ways of working. They develop a pecking order – a hierarchy of status and influence.  This will not necessarily reflect the organisation chart.  For example, the person who controls the stationery cupboard can have quite a lot of power to disrupt their colleague’s day, if they choose to do so!

If you don’t understand the influence hierarchy you can find it difficult to get things done, particularly if you are new to an organisation.  And the hierarchy will change over time, as people strive successfully and unsuccessfully to achieve greater influence.  You need to understand the office politics even if you find the concept distasteful. You will be very lucky indeed if someone actually tells you the rules of the game!

It is far better to adopt some useful strategies to keep the effects of office politics on you and your work to a minimum.  At the same time it will be useful to be classed as inside the influence group, as opposed to being on the outside looking in. What you are probably best to aim for is to manage any effects of office politics that directly relate to you!  Then turn them in your favour, or at least minimise their effects on you and your work.

Office politics in its crudest form usually occurs when one, or more than one, person holds (or is seen as holding) a significant amount of power within the office.  This may be formal power – the CEO’s private office is usually a hotbed of office politics – or informal power.  Formal power is pretty easy to read.  Informal power is much more difficult.  Informal power can arise in a number of ways! Someone with depth of knowledge of the organisation, the key subject matter expert, PAs to top managers,  may all wield considerable power and they are fairly easy to discover.  Far more challenging are the ‘office bully’, those in a relationship with someone holding formal power and unscrupulous players of the office politics’ game.  You need to listen and observe the group you work with and its surrounding organisation to find out more about these!

What can you do? Try to get to know the politically powerful within your organisation.  Don’t be afraid of them – they are often much, more receptive to people who aren’t intimidated by them!  Make sure they understand what you are trying to achieve.  Deal with their reservations and make sure they understand that you are taking on board their views.   If someone does try to undermine you, don’t get drawn in. Simply be bold and assertive, but not aggressive.  Make your points clearly and offer good will.  If their negative behaviour persists, then ring fence them – make sure they have as little as possible to do with your work.

People often play office politics because they are unsure about their own abilities and achievements.  They try to conceal what they believe are their shortcomings behind a façade and to make others feel they are less worthy. Don’t let them undermine your self-esteem – be proud of your own accomplishments and make sure that your efforts are recognised by those who matter.  But don’t get into direct competition if you can avoid it – it’s a waste of your time! If people know you are doing a good job consistently there is far less opportunity for you to be undermined.  Forming alliances with senior managers and using them as sponsors and champions for your work can increase your own informal power.  If you have a formal sponsor, make sure they are well informed and really up to date with your project or programme and can talk about it fluently to their colleagues.   As with all stakeholder management – targeted communication of  good quality of information is key to you and your project or programme’s success.

If you want to know more or do want to play the office politics game then here are some books that might be useful!

‘Office Politics: How work really works’ by Guy Browning   http://amzn.to/efTzjO

‘100+ Tactics for Office Politics (Barron’s Business Success)’ by Casey Hawley   http://amzn.to/hkBR6r

For the really evil!

’21 Dirty Tricks at Work: How to Win at Office Politics’ by Mike Phipps, Colin Gautrey http://amzn.to/fFMHQ4