Office Politics: A proactive approach

Last Updated: Aug 13, 2015
Don’t let yourself become a victim of office politics. Learn tell-tale signs and what to do about m in this excerpt from Savvy: Dealing with People, Power and Politics at Work.

“If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right!”

Mark Twain

world is in a state of turmoil. Economies are floundering, job losses are rife, uncertainty levels are soaring and technology is transforming way we do business. In absence of a new ‘rule book’, we’re having to make it up as we go along. Fertile ground for office politics!

So, how do you respond? Do you put your head down, pretend nothing’s happening and hope for best? Or are you politically savvy, approaching events with your wide open and trying to make a difference where you can?

Are you a victim?

Overheard by her team, an accounts manager complained: “Influencing is not relevant in our job. We have no authority. people we deal with are ignorant. y don’t give us what we and re’s nothing we can do about it.” Clearly a victim. But not only was she limiting herself, she was also setting a terrible example for her team, who – unsurprisingly – also adopted this negative, whinging approach. Are you a victim of politics? You may not be quite so downbeat as this accounts manager, but re may be more subtle ways in which you yourself on receiving end, rar than in driving seat. How many of following apply to you?

Thirteen ticks would be unlucky indeed! But even if you’ve experienced a few, it makes sense to examine . Do any of se sound familiar?

re’s nothing I can do”

Think about your colleagues. How many of m are proactive and truly make a difference? answer is probably depressing. It’s a fact of life that it’s easier to criticize and complain, than it is to take action. Not only is it easier, but it’s more fun too – and rapeutic! Being proactive requires hard graft, resilience and unquenchable optimism.

Are you more reactive than proactive? If so, does it really matter? short answer is yes. As well as having less impact, reactive people are more likely to feel oppressed and be prone to free-floating . Or y may be ‘passive aggressive’: yes, y make ir voices heard; yes, you know y’re unhappy. But y rarely focus on what y could do to make a positive difference.

news is that, if you err on reactive side, you can teach yourself to be more proactive by re-framing your thinking. Conceptually, this is a simple technique:

So, if you yourself thinking, “re’s nothing I can do,” re-frame might be, “Of course re’s something I can do. Let me list key stakeholders and establish how I can influence each one.”

“I never see it coming”

Some people appear to have ability to see round corners – and over horizon. y are exceptionally talented at anticipating difficulties. Ors are not only taken by surprise, but make same mistakes again and again, and so are likely to become victims of negative politicking. To minimize this risk, it’s vital to be astute. Be aware of what’s going on around you, think through ors might be behaving way y are and invest time in anticipating consequences. In short, spot ‘flags’. Here are some examples:

This list is not exhaustive. In one organization, we asked a group to list potential flags and y rapidly identified over 100.

But don’t just think of yourself as a victim in all this. What about as perpetrator of a political situation. Sometimes even most innocent act – or omission – can trigger a chain of events, with catrophic consequences. Stopping for a moment to consider possible effects of what you are about to do helps minimize this risk.

“I can’t be bored”

You may become a victim because you choose not to engage. You’re fully aware of what’s going on, but don’t have time, or inclination, to get involved with politics. Perhaps you’ve already worked a 10-hour day, or you’ve got a spreadsheet to finish. In our recent survey, 65% admitted that y couldn’t be bored with playing politics. se people feel ir results should speak for mselves and very uncomfortable blowing ir own trumpet. And when pressed furr, many get to, “This is just wrong.” For m, political savvy is akin to behaving unethically.

Is this how you feel? If so, a vital step is to shift your view and develop a more positive perception of political savvy. Think about consequences of your reluctance to engage. If you don’t publicize your successes, and those of your team, people may not be aware of your excellent work. Could you be accused of failing to share news and best practice? And is re a risk that team will suffer when it comes to recognition and reward? If you don’t actively influence powers that be, you can’t complain when your projects fail through lack of support. So you to engage, but in a way which doesn’t offend your personal integrity.

“I don’t know how”

Suppose you’ve decided to take a positive proactive approach and have learned how to read situations, but you still don’t know what to do when difficult situations come along. If this is case, read Savvy. book will help you to develop your political savvy – at whatever level and in whatever industry.

Excerpted from Chapter 2 of Savvy: Dealing with People, Power and Politics at Work , by Jane Clarke, published June 2012 by Kogan Page. Copyright 2012 by Jane Clarke. Reproduced by permission of Kogan Page.