Your high school years may be well behind your, but in the world of office politics, the dynamics of popularity are still alive and well.
Though the rules of engagement have changed (having a pair of designer jeans or boyfriend who is captain of the football team doesn’t mean much in the working world), the norms are still very much in place. Being on the inner circle matters–as so does knowing how to navigate the relationships in it.
Here some expert advice on how to navigate office politics in a way that can better your professional life.
Invest your energy in what matters to the “queen bees.” Involving yourself in what is high priority gets you noticed. Career counselor and executive coach Ray Cohen recommends this strategy to establish positive role in your workplace’s political system: Invest as much time on “working” office politics as you do traditional responsibilities. “Figure out who the key decision makers are and systematically make yourself known to them, aligning your interests with theirs.”
Consider the biggest challenges your department and company face—and find a way to take action. “Don’t ask what you can do to help address these challenges; offer to take on a special project to demonstrates your initiative—taking extreme care to involve yourself in the issues that can actually be solved,” says Cohen.
Be an eager (but strategic) support person. Office politics is not unlike actual politics: Align yourself with the people in power and you’ll rise with them. When they fall, so too, does your importance. To navigate strategically, be a supporter to those your required to have allegiance with (your boss), along with the rising stars in your organization you respect, and see have potential.
Behind the scenes, partake in “non-aggressive evangelism.” Network with your peers and senior management, establish a brand identity for yourself at industry events, and participate in the company-wide projects that enhance your visibility.
Identify your (and their) purposes. Office politics aren’t about schmoozing so much as it is strategically improving your reputation as a person who deserves, and gives, mutual and symbiotic support.
What are your career vision, and values? What do you hope to accomplish in your role, and longer term career?
Taking the time to clarify these questions can serve as your foundation, and basis of where you involve yourself as office politics shape shift.
“When you know your purpose, you can show up authentically, consistently, and powerfully. “That clarity means you can choose when it’s critical to speak up, and when it’s more appropriate to listen and observe,” explains human resources executive and Compassionate Leadership
Stay out of the weeds. Hollyer also advises being highly investigative and strategic about where you’re involved. Many times, this means staying out of some conversations entirely. “Get all sides of the story before you weigh in or take action. Be curious about others motivations and needs before advocating for your own agenda,” says Hollyer.