To many, the term "office politics" means blatant power plays, interoffice rivalries, and professional hatchet-jobs. But you don't have to be a Machiavellian schemer to enjoy the benefits of office politics.
In fact, by following a simple list of strategies, you can master the basics of office politics without sacrificing your integrity, says Kelly Pate Dwyer, a contributor to Bnet, a business-related Web site of CNET Networks Inc.
The do's: Do let your goals dictate your actions. Being politically savvy in the workplace means aligning your actions with your goals. If you're desperate to switch departments, don't stew. Look for opportunities to take on cross-departmental projects. If you want to earn more, speak frankly with your supervisor about what it will take to secure a promotion. Adopting the wait-and-see approach is likely to get you nowhere fast. Do build alliances. Keeping your head down may seem like the safest route to take, but it's unlikely to help you move up the rungs of your organization. Instead, take the time to befriend your peers and the administrative staff. This guarantees that you'll have allies in your corner should you need help with a project. The key to building alliances? Listen, act interested, and offer your help and expertise in a non-intrusive way. Do watch and learn. Every company has a unique formula for success, so be observant. Note the characteristics of the people who succeed. Are they bold and inventive or conservative and cautious? You want to emphasize the skills and character traits you have that have garnered attention for others. Do leverage your strengths. Many of us make the mistake of focusing almost exclusively on the things we haven't quite mastered about our jobs, but that can handicap your career. Instead, look for opportunities to demonstrate your expertise. Go after projects that make the most of your particular skillset.
The don'ts Don't start strategically harmful relationships. Steer clear of troublemakers or you may be branded as one yourself. If you go out to lunch every day with the office misanthrope, you are likely to be affected by his bad reputation. Don't gripe about being passed over. It's easy to nurse a grudge when you're overlooked for a promotion or denied an opportunity to work on a coveted project. But making your resentment known is unlikely to get you any closer to your goal. Instead, draw attention to yourself by volunteering for a challenging task that allows you to demonstrate your skills and knowledge. Don't assume hard work is enough. In today's competitive work world, being competent is not sufficient to earn you accolades. Getting ahead requires strategic thinking, subtle self-promotion, and teamwork. People sometimes assume that working harder will result in recognition, but more often than not, all it nets them is more work.
By Marshall Loeb