As we mature we come to understand Life is not always fair. Often the spoils of competition are awarded to the most popular, the most well-connected and most well-funded, regardless of who is more deserving. Putting in the longest hours, being the most qualified or talented does not guarantee success. Those that make it to the top of their industries can owe their ascendance to factors and dynamics that have little to do with merit.
In a perfect world, what we earn would reflect the effort, integrity and intentions we put into our work. But politicking—amassing and asserting one’s influence through social networking to position oneself closer to power—can determine upward mobility as much, or even more, than virtue and value. Since office politics often play a substantial role in the corporate climb, it’s essential to play to win.
- Give credit where credit’s due. Few things will build resentment from your colleagues faster than not acknowledging their contributions. Sharing credit doesn’t cost you a thing, but it will pay off huge dividends in gratitude and respect from your co-workers. Collaboration is critical to success, so learn how to work with others in a way that recognizes the value and effort each member brings to the table.
- Be a person of your word. If you say you will do something, be like a mailman…and deliver! Have it done right and on-time. This builds trust and people will reciprocate by having your back when you need them.
- Create a win-win when possible. One way to ensure your office mates will be there for you in a pinch is to always aim to make working together mutually beneficial. It may not always be possible, but if you make a sincere effort, people will be receptive to working with you.
- Don’t gossip. If someone comes to you with all the dirt keep your mouth shut. They’re doing the same thing about you to everyone else. The best way to stay clean when someone is slinging mud is to change the subject or stay silent and mutter something about needing to finish a report or meet a tight deadline. Whatever you do, avoid taking sides. Choose the wrong side in a civil war and you can end up taking a bullet on the battlefield.
- CYA (Cover your @$$). Keep records of emails, voicemails, and other documentation if you are involved in a situation you suspect might come back to bite you.
- Neutralize toxic people. A few rules for detoxing from people who force their issues on everyone they come into contact with: Don’t take things personally, distance yourself, don’t try and rationalize with them because they do things based on illogical motives. Remember, they are playing out their own issues and their behavior has nothing to do with you, so don’t get trapped in their web of craziness by taking the bait. Stay as far away as possible, keep interactions to short small talk and make every excuse to avoid working together on projects or teams.
- Be helpful. Reciprocity makes the world go round. If you have the time and resources, do a favor when you can. But be careful of those that will always receive but never give. Save your time and effort for those that appreciate it and will return the courtesy when you ask for a helping hand.
- Show some interest in your co-workers as people. You don’t have to jump on board for every Friday happy hour invite or buy cookies from every parent hocking it at the office so their kid can win a prize, but taking a genuine interest in your co-worker as a real person and not just an “employee” develops a bond. A silly happy birthday email with a singing duck or asking if they want you to bring them back a burrito from lunch since they’re stuck at their desk will build an authentic relationship without requiring you become bffs with everyone at the office.
- Be slow to snap and quick to smile. In the workplace some decisions and circumstances will be out of your control, but the three things you will always have control over are: your reactions, your efforts and your attitude. When one of those emails that sends your blood pressure to near stroke levels ends up in your inbox, don’t fire off a reply in an emotional frenzy fueled by the frustration that they “always do this” or “is such an idiot” or “never gets it”. Wait until you’re relaxed then be emotionally neutral and strategic about your response.On the flip side, be as easy going and approachable as you can. When people feel you genuinely try to understand them when they have an issue or feel comfortable coming to you with a question knowing they won’t be ridiculed with an eye roll or condescending tone; they will be a natural ally. People gravitate to a calming, morale boosting personality in the office since it makes them feel more at ease and confident.Be Courteous of People’s Time
Whether you’re at the bottom trying to locate a foothold to step into or you’re at the top and looking to guarantee you stay there, social diplomacy is key to advancement and longevity. Likability has a part to play in who gets passed over and who gets a push up. HR may call it “cultural fit” or “leadership ability”, but its code for mastering office politics. If you know the rules of the game and how to play, you can maneuver successfully to where you want you want to be without sacrificing your ethics, surrendering your integrity or modifying your values.