Despite its negative connotation, office politics is a fact of workplace life. Successful people are politically savvy but also driven by integrity and authenticity. Vlerick Business School offers a guidebook for navigating the landscape of office politics without losing that authenticity.
The word ‘politics’ has such a negative connotation that being ‘skilled’ at office politics may imply deceit, hypocrisy, and other sundry attributes that one doesn’t advertise on a resume. In their white paper, ‘Your Vlerick Guidebook for Staying Ahead of the (Political) Game,’ Vlerick business school professor Katleen de Stobbeleir and her collaborator Maaike van Ameijde offer a more positive approach to office politics as an opportunity to be authentic and productive. In fact, they argue, authenticity is the vital component of being politically savvy, which results in more effective relationships with others, stronger reputations, and, ultimately, career success.
Unfortunately, being political is uncomfortable for many people, and not just because of its negative reputation. Perhaps an even greater hurdle is the fact that most people have built up their careers based on technical and functional expertise. Such expertise, however, can only take you so far. Further career advancement requires adopting a more strategic and organizational mindset, and using interpersonal and social skills to achieve your goals. Technical and functional skills are no longer as valuable as the ability to build coalitions and acquire resources, thus building up your influence in the organization (and your ability to achieve more). Equally important is having the dexterity not to get mired in power games and struggles.
In their paper, de Stobbeleir and van Ameijde offer a series of tips and tactics for becoming politically savvy that they’ve divided into two types: tactics for developing yourself and tactics for building your relationships.
Tactics for developing yourself include the following:
Tactics for building your relationships include the following:
No person is an island, and this is especially true in the business arena. To be politically savvy simply refers to the ability to develop good, productive relationships with those around you — hardly a nefarious goal. There is nothing devious, for example, about thinking before you speak, deciding whether or not speaking up would be productive and choosing your battles wisely. It also makes sense to manage up — up to a point: you will want to avoid the temptation to focus so much on your boss that you neglect you own teams.
Increasing your influence through stronger interpersonal relationships and rapport and learning to network effectively through beneficial working relationships increases the potential resources and support on which you can call as needed. Reciprocity is a powerful principle of business success.
However, the foundation of all political skills and actions must be integrity and authenticity. Otherwise, any success built through your political savvy is bound to be only temporary.
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