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How to Deal with Workplace Politics

Dealing with office politics can be a nightmare. To thrive at work you need to know how to do more than just survive office politics - you know how to navigate office politics.

The great news is .it's not as difficult (or as schemey) as you might think.

Most of the women that I work with are intimidated at the thought of dealing with office politics. While it is a common obstacle, it doesn't have to be. The truth is, once you know how to navigate office politics, you will be navigating office politics with ease. All you need are simple strategies to handle workplace politics in a powerful, but authentic way, which is exactly what I'm covering in this post.

Strategy 1: Know you can't avoid office politics

A lot of us have a vision of a corporate meritocracy, where the person who is the best at their job and does the best work, is the person who is elevated into leadership. Let's face it, if the world was fair that is exactly how it would work.

The hard truth though is the world isn't always fair, and navigating office politics is a necessary component of your career success strategy.

While you could proclaim that you're not going to play the office politics, you would just be surrendering your power and your influence to someone else... and they might not be using it for good. Plus, that's also a one-way ticket away from the career fast track, which you most likely want to get on.

Strategy 2: Rethink office politics

Corporate politics are going to be whatever they're made out to be.

Maybe they get a bad rep because the people that typical play workplace politics are the same people that would throw their own mother under a bus in order to get ahead. But there are more ways to deal with office politics than to get down into the mud with people like that.

When used effectively, and for good, workplace politics are going to be an extremely powerful force in your career success and career advancement trajectory.

Ultimately, office politics are simply a game. While you might not like the idea of office politics, chances are you like yourself a good game. Just like any game, there is a way to play office politics in a way that is full of positivity on integrity. The faster that you can make the game into one that you actually want to play, and that everyone can win at, the better it is for everyone.

Strategy 3: Know what you're trying to achieve

There's that career vision again...

Knowing what you're actually setting out to achieve in terms of a project initiative in terms of your career is going to help you navigate office politics with ease.

Why is that? It tells you exactly who you need to deal with, and exactly what you're trying to actually do. This helps you make sure you're investing your energy and effort into the right things.

Sure, you could play the game just to play the game - there are a lot of people that actually do that. But if you're like most of my clients, you don't want to get ahead simply to get ahead. You have outcomes that you're trying to achieve, both for yourself and for your company.

Having clarity in terms of what you're trying to do, and what you are trying to achieve, is going to be one of your biggest assets when you are navigating office politics. That purpose and shared vision will help you align people to acheive whatever you're trying to achieve.

Strategy 4: Know exactly who you need to know

There's actually two prongs to this strategy.

First, based on what you're trying to achieve, you need to identify who actually has influence in making it happen. It could be figuring out who has the authority to actually make the decision, or it can be identifying who has influence with the decision maker.

For example, if you're trying to kick off a new initiative, who has the power to say yes, who needs to say yes to that initiative in order for it to get the go-ahead?

Second is where we get into the dirty office politics, and that is knowing whose bad side you do not want to be on...

You know the one, the person with outsized influence over the right people at work. If you're lucky, this is someone that you have a great relationship with. Even having a neutral relationship puts you into a good position to navigate (and hopefully escape) the bad office politics.

Strategy 5: Focus on creating win-win scenarios

Navigating office politics is a million times easier when the person that you're working with knows exactly what is in it for them.

To be clear, I'm not talking about what's in it for the company, I'm talking about them personally.

It is not my place, nor is it yours, to judge someone for looking out for number one at work. Especially since the reality is that this is human nature; self-preservation has been entrenched by evolution, while work drama is very distinct from say, being chased by wooly mammoths, our threat detectors don't differentiate intelligently.

When you're asking something of someone, then knowing exactly what's in it for them, and how this is actually going to serve them and make them look good, is going to help get them onto your side really, really quickly. In turn, it can help you very rapidly expand your circle of influence as well as your network of advocates at work.

At the end of the day, most people aren't going to disagree or object to something that is in their best interest, unless they themselves are absolutely terrible at dealing with office politics.