Office politics often has a dirty reputation. But in truth, we all need to “play the game”. Unfortunately, when it’s viewed that way - as a game - people think of engaging in it as being manipulative and underhanded.
There are individuals who are just in the game for personal power at any cost. Definitely try to avoid getting involved in “all that”. But if you want to be as successful and productive as you can be, you must understand how politics works in your organization.
Essentially, politics is relationships. Developing and nurturing good relationships with those you work with at all levels is required to get your work done. In order to develop and maintain good relationships, you need to get to know people, their motivations, their work, their priorities, their values. A good relationship is a 'give and take', where both parties assume 100% responsibility for maintaining a positive connection. If you establish a relationship first, then problems and opportunities can be dealt with in the context of your relationship which is more encompassing than anything that may come up.
In a new book entitled Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback, the authors have identified three networks to develop to optimize your effectiveness. Their distillation of these relationships puts office politics into a measured, practical perspective that any leader can agree makes sense.
Here are their three essential networks:
1. Operational network. This refers to developing the relationships with those people who are needed in order to accomplish your team’s daily tasks and projects.
2. Strategic network. Build bridges with those people who are in positions that can help you identify opportunities for your team. This can help you prepare your team for future projects, challenges, and changes.
3. Developmental network. Identify people who can help you develop and grow. “Who you know determines what you get to do. And what you get to do determines what you get to know,” says author and Harvard professor Linda Hill.
Developing solid alliances takes some forethought and work. Determining who to develop relationships with requires the understanding of what you want to get done, where you want to go, and how your organization works. If these people are remote, it will take a little more thought and creativity to develop and maintain affiliations. (Check out the article 5 Marketing Rules for Long Distance Influencing for some tips.)
And the bottom line for developing good relationships is, as the authors succinctly state, “You need to understand how you make people feel when they are with you.”
Being the Boss is a book that packs a lot of sage advice for managers. The link below is to a sixteen minute video where the authors cover this information and a little bit more.
If you are one of those that wants to avoid office politics at all costs, rethink that stance. In an upright organization , utilizing office politics correctly is a winning situation for all involved.