Everyone enjoying the current political season?
Didn’t think so.
Even the presidential candidates seem grumpy and cranky. The most driven job seekers act as if they would trade being on the campaign trail, trying to win the title of Mr. President, for being on their living room sofas, trying to understand the final episode of “Mr. Robot.” [Of course, everyone wants to be at the Iowa State Fair, eating deep-fried butter on a stick. Even Mr. Robot would enjoy that.]
Of course, you can avoid national politics. All you have to do is turn off your TV, stop turning on your computer, unplug your radio, stop the newspaper and lock yourself your wine cellar for the next 14 months. Don’t worry. We’ll call you when it’s over.
But office politics – that’s a different matter. I don’t like to be a Negative Norman, but let’s face facts – you ignore office politics at your own risk. And it’s not only me who has this point of view. Travis Bradberry, a Forbes.com contributor, covering the emotional intelligence and leadership performance beat, agrees with me, 110 percent.
“Saying you’re not affected by office politics,” he opines in “6 Ways to Win at Office Politics,” a recent post, “is like saying you’re not affected by politics at large. It makes a difference, even if you close your eyes and hope it goes away.”
I do like Bradberry’s approach, which is, basically, to make believe you’re interested in critical issues and to pretend you really care about people.
That’s right – just like the real political candidates.
Winning strategy No. 1 is “Learn the lay of the land.” This means paying attention to the interpersonal dynamics of your work place. Or, if this sounds really boring, become a big snoop. You want to learn “who has lunch together? Who gets invited to important meetings, and who doesn’t?” This is useful info, true, but it can be depressing. Do you really want to be reminded of who always has lunch alone and never gets invited to important meetings? That’s right – you.
Strategy No. 2 is to “Build broad alliances.” According to Bradberry, you want to “have a foot in as many of the political camps as possible.” This way, “you’ll stand a chance of coming out ahead, no matter which political camp is currently ‘winning.'” This sounds like a good idea, but it’s pretty impractical. After all, you only have two feet, and when it comes to politics, both of those are left feet. The answer may be to keep your feet to yourself, and stick your nose in as many groups as possible. That way, you won’t make friends, but you’re sure to make enemies in every group. And if everyone in the office hates you, the powers that be will instantly recognize you as management material.
Strategy No. 3 is “Keep your eyes on the goal.” Remember why you jumped into office politics, Bradberry insists, and don’t get caught up emotionally. “Gossiping, backstabbing, manipulating, and the rest,” he says, “are not needed to win at office politics.” Perhaps, I say, but they’re so much fun!
“Make things win-win” is strategy No. 4. In other words, “instead of trying to defeat an opponent, spend that time and energy thinking how you can both get what you want.” Or, even better, spend that time and energy thinking how you can fool your opponent into thinking they got what they want, when secretly, you got what you want; which will let you pull the rug out from under them at some time in the future when they’re not expecting it, and crush them under your feet like the vermin they are. That’s win-win, too. You just win more.
“Never pit rivals against one another” is strategy No. 5. You don’t want to get squished when two office titans collide, especially when you told each of them that you were 100 percent on their side. That’s why it’s important to stay invisible, never commit to anyone or any policy, and never be around when important decisions are made. This can be accomplished if you are very savvy about office politics, or if you work in HR.
The 6th and final strategy is “Stick to your principals, without fail.” As Bradberry concludes, “if you’re motivated by fear, revenge, or jealousy, don’t do it.” I agree. And since everything you do is motivated by fear, revenge or jealousy, don’t do anything, ever. It’s not the easiest way to win at office politics, but it works.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.