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.
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:
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