In the past I have written about office politics and it’s inevitability in the workplace. As the political debates are scheduled, I’m reminded of our ‘new normal’ where there is no political season. Politics is now ongoing, available for participation and view all the time.
In my ‘not on the world stage’ life, I’ve seen people stumble and have learned the hard way from my own trip-ups. I’ve learned that pointing out an error made by the boss can get things thrown at me! I have eaten muffins non-stop in order to avoid telling someone off and managed NOT to burning a professional bridge. I have apologized for not knowing enough to be helpful, rather than hurt someone’s chances for getting a job they were not qualified to do. I’ve advised someone to watch their rear flank when someone they trusted was sabotaging them behind their back.
With the political ads on television gearing up for a yearlong onslaught, I wanted to share with you a few ideas so that you can win more than you lose at interpersonal politics. I call this list of tips simply:
Things I know NOW:
- Tell the truth all the time and be aware of your timing as well as who is in the room at the time. You don’t want people to be furious about your being indiscreet or surprised. This is known as being tactful and discreet. Rest assured that liars usually get found out and then branded as untrustworthy.
- Alliances and relationships do not always trump good work and vice versa. You need both. Most workplaces have a pecking order, so you should learn what it is and then line up. In fact, you should align yourself with people who should be aware of the quality of your work and your potential to make a positive contribution. When you do that, it’s called paying your dues and everyone has to put some ‘dues’ in to take some benefits out.
- Not everyone will like you. Competition can breed jealousy and some people are genuine sharks at work. Develop the skill of knowing who might not have your best interests at heart and develop a survival strategy.
- Identify your professional goals and develop strategies that support them. Work hard not to step on other people to obtain what is important to you. There are lots of ways to climb to the top and using the backs of others to get there makes for a weak foundation.
- Learn how to blow your own horn. No one cares as much about your career as you do so learn how to let people know what you do well. Others will support you but someone who truly champions your cause above their own is a very rare individual. If you are telling the truth about what you can do, it’s not bragging.
- Be aware and prepare for the consequences of your actions. Taking action often requires you to forecast the cost and there can be some political fallout. Don’t let it take you by surprise or derail your efforts. Anticipate both the up and downside of your words and deeds. Make sure you can pay the price if the worst thing you can imagine happening, actually does happen.
- Timing is important. Not everyone is patient but everyone can develop patience. When you are thinking about what acting might cost, think about what waiting might cost as well.
- Develop a professional ‘slogan’ I’m not talking about a bromide that belongs in a mission statement. In fact these phrases are used so often that many have lost their meaning and you might actually sound insincere if you say them out loud. A catch phrase that guides you or describes you can help you keep your focus when things get chaotic. It’s not for others – it’s for you to remember when you get a little lost.
During the run up to the election, there is value in spending some time identifying your own political lessons, because in the workplace, it is always election season! Your professional campaign will involve garnering votes, participating in debates, and advertising and promoting your platform. If the media followed you around at your job, would you be pleased with what they wrote about your words, your behavior and your actions?