Office Politics: Playing the Game

As you may already know, you’re judged by the performance of your area of responsibility. The people who report to you are as important to your future as are the people to whom you report. That leads directly to the matter of office politics. It exists everywhere. People recoil at the idea of office politics, and that is because not all people hold politics and politicians in high regard. The reality is that whenever more than two people are involved, there will be an element of politics.

Consider this rather positive definition of politics: the total complex of relations between people in society. From this perspective, you can see that politics are present in all settings that involve people. The game of office politics exists, and nearly everyone plays it. You’re either a participant or a spectator. Most managers are participants.

Some people are viewed as “cold turkeys” by those who report to them but as “warm, generous human beings” by their superiors. This may be because these people are really playing the game, but in the long run they’re working against themselves. However much they may succeed in fulfilling their ambitions at the office, they’ll fail as human beings.

If getting promoted is more important to you than your integrity, than being your own person, then you’d better skip the rest of this chapter because you won’t like much of what it says. Almost anyone can succeed temporarily by being an opportunist, but consider the price paid in getting there. Granted, many of the decisions made about promotions will not seem fair to you, and they won’t all be made on the basis of ability. Life is not fair, so don’t expect it.

Office Politics and Promotions

Often, individuals feel that many promotions are made on the basis of something other than fairness and ability and that is office politics in a nutshell. But even though most companies try to make these decisions fairly, it doesn’t always come off that way. Besides, a decision that seems perfectly rational to the executive who is making it may not seem rational to you, especially if you thought you were the likely candidate for the promotion.

In spite of that, you still have to prepare yourself if you want to get promoted. If you depend on luck or serendipity, your chances are greatly diminished. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by being prepared. Who knows, your opportunity for promotion may come from outside your company. You want to be prepared for that possibility, too.

Here are the most important activities that you should do in order to be prepared for a future promotion:

  1. Preparing your understudy
  2. Avoiding the perils of indispensability
  3. Continuing your education
  4. Tooting your own horn, but softly
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