I try not to dwell on this too much. But had I known this sooner, this little bit of intelligence may have prevented a lot of angst and propelled my AOL career to even higher levels: Office politics can be a good thing.
Wasn’t it enough that I was helping the company change the world without focusing on distracting, petty little power plays? I mean, really, there are only so many hours in the day! Well, the fact of the matter was, those power plays were happening all around me, whether I liked it or not. And by not bodaciously engaging in them, I wasn’t able to fully utilize my workplace power.
My turning point was realizing that when you break it down, office politics is simply relationships plus power.
Most women want positive relationships in their lives, including at work. But the idea of power, well that’s something most women aren’t as comfortable with and understandably so. It’s not as if we don’t have enough stories about power being abusive, harmful, or strictly self-serving. That’s one side of power. However, there’s another side of power.
Every workplace is political, and the higher up the organizational chart you go, the more political the workplace gets. That’s because there’s more at stake. The higher up you go, the more things get accomplished by virtue of relationships and positioning.
Think about it. Entry-level, front-line positions, such as customer service reps and junior programmers typically don’t get caught up in high-level, complex positioning and angling for power. To them, serving the customer or writing code is job one-and-only. In a very important way, the company vision is never so clear and pure as at that level.
Smart career gals know that the higher up you go in an organization, the more office politics you get. Ego, hidden agendas, and power jockeying begins to show up. They also know that the question isn’t whether to play, but how.
Here’s some more news: “Office politics” is just another way of spelling “leadership”. And that’s a good thing! Like leadership, political acumen is the artful technique of making people feel good about themselves while they are helping you and the company. It is a form of plugged-in power that is created when we are trusted and have built a track record that says, “You can count on me.”
On a day-to-day basis, office politics can:
- Allow people at all levels of the organization to move up and around, because politics can give individuals the opportunity to get recognized.
- Help managers support their employees through acquiring the resources they need to get the job done and serve as a buffer between the employees and pressures from higher-ups.
- Help the company as a whole succeed as senior level leaders use politics to cultivate support and enthusiasm for company initiatives.
Given this list, are you involved in office politics? Chances are good that you are! So, learn from my mistake. Embrace office politics, learn to use it constructively, and build your bodacious career!
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