As someone who builds business simulations for a living, I’ve spent 11 years playing games but there’s one game I avoid like the plague, what am I talking about? The Office Politics game!
Coming from both small business and enterprise environments I’ve seen the worst; from bosses who were completely at ease stabbing others in the back, plays to gain advantage at the expense of others; as well as power struggle situations that permeated across departments and every facet of the business. The result – a toxic work environment and poor levels of engagement.
I remember one fairly recent example of office politics at work when I was overlooked for a promotion. I was clearly qualified for the position and not only in my eyes but in those of my team. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the opinion of my manager and upon enquiring why I wasn’t considered, the response came back “we didn’t know you were interested” and “look at Simon he has been telling everyone about where he is going in this company”. I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut.
Where was I going wrong? Were my business instincts that bad and what was the lesson to be learned here? As it turns out, by denying the office politics and avoiding engaging with them I ended up suffering. Others with less experience, skill and knowledge were promoted and were now able to influence the decisions being made around me. I both felt and knew I had missed a massive opportunity to further my career.
So, clearly all office politics are bad, right? Well actually I think not.
I have worked out that the ultimate guide to mastering office politics is to approach it in a positive way. There’s no need to be afraid and it’s possible to fairly promote yourself and your cause without negatively impacting on others.
- There are many ways of engaging in a positive way but in the end what now works for me revolves around communicating in a persuasive way.
- I am now more focused on building great relationships.
- I am mentally breaking down silos by understanding the business as a whole.
- I attempt to understand the challenges of my colleagues and seek counsel to help better decision making and of course:
- I’m no longer afraid to toot my own horn.
Office politics are often a fact of life in large established businesses where the culture allows it. It is your choice whether you engage in a positive or negative way. When thinking about this piece I came across a wonderful quote by the philosopher Plato who said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” The same is true within the workplace.
I am fortunate to now work in a team that has a culture of support, acceptance, focus and a knowledge of the bigger picture – much of that has to do with building the team from the ground up. We pressed the restart button after designing ROCKET.