A Few Powerful Tips On How To Navigate Office Politics
Over the last five years, we have asked thousands of women from different companies, countries and cultures who are partaking in the Elevate programme to respond to the following statement:
I know how to navigate office politics.
The results we have got consistently over the years show us that only 4% of women “strongly agree” that they know how to navigate office politics!
30% of women “agree”, but this is a significantly lower percentage than the rest of the answers on the survey, which got me thinking.
What is it about office politics that women struggle with? And how can we overcome this issue?
At the end of the day, office politics plays a vital role in the work environment and the progression of your career, so it’s vital that women are well equipped to deal with it.
This article will explore the world of office politics. I will explain what we mean by the term “office politics”, why it’s so important and what we can do to successfully navigate it.
What does office politics mean?
Most of us are well aware that business, careers and life in general are about working with other people. Whether they are colleagues, team members, customers, suppliers or managers, we are all constantly surrounded by people, which means that learning how to engage effectively with each other is fundamental to success.
And that’s all office politics is. When we say, “I know how to navigate office politics”, we are talking about dealing with different personalities and how well we work with others.
The problem is, the term “office politics” is almost seen as a dirty phrase. It’s sometimes seen as a bad, manipulative thing, and that’s not the case. It’s much more about working with other people in order to achieve an end goal.
Whenever I speak with clients about office politics, I often hear them sigh or groan, like it’s something painful. They talk about that one colleague who is good at office politics or a charmer, as though it’s a putdown or something to be avoided!
Why do so many women feel this way?
Often, this misguided perception of office politics is fuelled by bad feedback. In this situation, a woman may go to her boss due to an issue with a colleague or ask for help with an office politics matter, and just get told to “deal with it”, “be more resilient”, or “don’t take it personally”.
Navigating office politics isn’t about coping or being thick-skinned like it’s a bad thing we have to tolerate. It’s something to leverage. It’s something to become good at because this is how we achieve the goals we want to achieve – by working with others.
Office politics is about bringing others along with you. Office politics is about setting out your ideas and sharing them with people so they can get on board and understand your vision. Office politics is about building alliances with your network and your stakeholders.
And yet, only a very small percentage of women say they are good at it?
Reframing office politics
Mostly, this comes from a misguided perception of what office politics is, so we need to reframe the way we see it. Instead of it being considered as something that is underhand and manipulative, we need to start to see it as a wonderful, collaborative tool to bring people closer to us.
There is a language to office politics. It’s a skill set that needs to be developed, and we can only really develop it in the right way if we start to embrace it, rather than shy away from it.
So, when used in the right way, office politics can be a really good thing! Of course, there will always be those people who will engage in self-serving, underhand and manipulative activities, but that’s the minority.
It’s just unfortunate that the small minority who do it wrong or badly are the ones who get the attention, which ends up putting off women from wanting to engage with office politics.
And this mindset can create quite a dangerous domino effect on your career. For instance, if you distance yourself from somebody whose characteristics and traits aren’t in line with your thinking and your mindset, you might distance yourself from the very people who are the movers and shakers and the influencers in your circle.
Spotting new opportunities
However, if we refocus and look at the good examples of office politics, we can see all the opportunities that are available by engaging with it in the right way.
A particular person may have some unique skills that you could learn from, which could help you in your career, but with a misguided perception of office politics, you will never spot this opportunity.
We are all in the people industry
Our mantra at Elevate Talent is that, no matter what niche industry you operate in, we are all in the people industry. This means that office politics and working positively with other people to create a great outcome is essential to your success.
So, don’t be put off by office politics. Even if the word “politics” sounds nasty, it’s not as bad as you think.
You just need to reframe it!
I look forward to sharing more next week.
If you have anything you’d like to add on women in business, please do leave a comment in the box below – I’d love to hear from you!