Who’s really in charge at your office? Is it your boss – or her assistant? Which is the best method for communicating a decision? A meeting? An email? A conversation? Do your speaking or writing skills really have a major impact on your career? These are all matters of workplace politics and group dynamics.
Workplace politics can be tricky, but learning to navigate them successfully can be one of the most important paths to ensure a successful career. Many professionals spend their effort with their head down, doing their work. And of course, top-notch work is the secret to success. But what many employees soon learn is that it is just one part of the recipe, so to speak.
Factors Affecting Workplace Politics
There are three factors that can have a crucial impact on workplace politics:
Internal relationships: Sometimes the old adage is true – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And not in a “my dad is the bank CEO” way, but more of a way that you know whom to turn to when you need it at work. Of course, you should always be focused on impressing your superiors. Maintaining an excellent relationship with your boss is one key way to do that and learning how to manage yourself and your work to the style that he or she prefers can help keep you in good standing. But having productive working relationships with others in your company, including your subordinates and those on the same level as you, can also pay dividends down the road. Being on great terms with professionals at all levels can be a major factor in getting things done – the truth is that people prefer to work with people they like, so developing positive relationships with those up and down the ladder can help you get your work done – and get ahead. But that doesn’t mean that you should be “buddies” with everyone. Savvy professionals know that it’s often smart to keep these work relationships at arm’s length – in other words, being social and friendly, but realizing that confiding in workplace friends can cause repercussions you hadn’t planned on. Another potential pitfall is gossip – being in the know can be very helpful to your career – no one wants to be the last to know – but being perceived as the office “gossip” can be detrimental to your career. Fortunately there are ways to balance these two issues so you’re not out of the loop, but not creating the loop either! And finally, don’t forget the importance of navigating your relationship with your assistant. Again, you want to be friendly, but you don’t want to overstep the bounds of your relationship which can leave them susceptible to challenging your authority or making it harder for you to ask them to do something. Learning how to successfully manage “up,” “down” and “sideways” is a key skill that every employee must master.
External relationships: At some point in your career, you may be called upon to be the “Face” of your company. Whether that means responding to a media inquiry, attending a trade show, or giving a presentation, it’s important to have thought through how you will respond to each of these situations and put your best foot forward. Brushing up on skills related to each of these can ensure that if the situation arises, you have a background from which to launch. Knowing where to find the resources to help you navigate these tricky situations – both internally and externally – allows you to be ready to take on one of these career-enhancing projects when it becomes available. Your willingness to get outside of your comfort zone when it comes to working with reporters or representing your company at a trade show can be crucial for establishing yourself as a utility player.
Communication: One of the most important factors in your success is how others perceive you – and much of that depends on your communication style. Communication includes a wide variety of factors – from how you present yourself in meetings, to how you engage with those above and below you in casual and professional conversations and your ability to give presentations. Written communication can be just as important as verbal. You may not think about your emails or texts as having any bearing on how people perceive you – but you’d be wrong. What appears to be a casual form of communication still shouts volumes about you. Double-checking to ensure that you are using correct spelling and grammar, that you have cc’ed those whom should receive it (and no more!) and that your tone and word choice reflect your expertise are more important than many people realize.
No matter the size of your company or your position there, being able to successfully navigate workplace politics both within and outside of your company can help catapult you to success. Being informed of the many facets that influence workplace politics will help you play the game to win.
Articles on workplace politics:
- The Power of Accountability
- Finding the Real Power Centers at Work
- How Personality Plays Out in the Workplace
- Ten People You Really Should Get to Know
- Saying No – Pick the Right Battles
- How to Find a Great Group to Work for
- Workplace Dynamics (Part 1): Understand All Your Stakeholders
- When Is It Important to Have a Strong Reaction?
- Working with Your Assistant, How to Leverage His/Her Full Potential
- Cliques at Work
- Believing in Something and Willing to Fight for It
- Keeping Your Sources Confidential: A Gold Mine of Negative Data
- Water Cooler Dangers
- Building Up Trust
- What the Women at Work Wish the Men at Work Knew/ Understood
- You Can’t Change Others — How to Use Influence to Your Advantage
- Navigating Office Politics
- Dealing with Bullies at Work
- Authenticity: Mean What You Say, Say What You Mean
Articles on dealing with your boss:
- Ten Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Your Boss
- How to Get Your Boss to Stop Hating You
- How to Disagree with Authority Figures in a Constructive Way
- Working for a Hard Driver
- You Don’t Seem to Be On Your Boss’s Good Side, How to Change That?
- Communicating with your CEO and Other Top Level Executives
- Know the Underlying Motivations of Your Boss Before Jumping to Conclusions
Articles on dealing with the media:
- Top Story? Or First Commercial Break? How Advertising and PR Differ (Part 1)
Articles on communication:
- How to Improve Your Written Communication
- How to Improve Your Verbal Communication: Five Things to Consider
- 6 Keys to Clear Writing
- Communicating Clearly: Focusing the Message
- 5 Ways to Improve Office Communication
- 5 Tips for Making Your Point
- Miscommunications: Listen to What You’re Saying
- How Your Speech Habits Can Hold You Back
- The Art of Clear Communication
- Five Ways to Communicate When Expertise Varies
- Managing Effective Communication
Articles on how to use emails more effectively:
- Don’t Use Emails as a Matter of Course; Consider Your Other Options
- Spill Chick? Beyond Spell Check: 10 Tips for Ensuring Error-free Copy
- 5 Things You Should Check EVERY Time You Send Out an Email
- How To Manage Your Email Account
- Five Tips to Write Better Emails
- TTFN..SWAK..Signing Off Your Emails with Polish
Articles on how to be more productive during meetings:
- Best Practices in Setting a Meeting Agenda
- Before You Call That Meeting… Should You Meet at All?
- Asking for Constructive Feedback: Silence Is Not Acceptance
- Leading More Effective Conference Calls
- Tips for Cutting Down on Meetings
- How to Have a Successful Meeting – For Meeting Leaders (Part 1)
Articles on how to give better presentations:
Articles on how to have a successful trade show: