Practicing Positive Office Politics (yes, it’s possible!)

We all know what negative office politicking looks like: backstabbing, sucking up to the boss, jockeying for favor.  Negative politics in the workplace definitely succeed at one thing; they destroy trust between colleagues.

Practicing Positive Office Politics (yes, it's possible!)However, I recently had the pleasure of moderating a webinar for Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) and my two esteemed panelists challenged attendees to use office politics for good, rather than for evil motives against other employees.

Panelists included Julianne LaMarche; President of the Interactive division at Trailer Park, the world’s largest entertainment marketing and content agency and Brigitte McCray; VP of Programming, Planning and Strategy for the Travel Channel, the world’s leading travel media brand.  These dynamic women offered their insight on how to practice positive politics:

  1. Learn your political system and how to work within and around it.  You need to understand your organizational players, from C-Suite executives down. Julianne LaMarche offers, “You want to understand your organizational chart but you also want to understand the informal culture that happens within the organization and the difference between the two.”  Understanding your organization will help you appreciate your department from a larger perspective.
  2. Once you’re familiar with the key players, develop a network of information sources up, down and across the organization so you can keep a pulse on what is going on.  Cultivate relationships so that you know who does what AND they know your capabilities.  Regularly meet with your information network and listen more than you talk.  Meanwhile, it helps to know people on a personal level – don’t skip your company picnic!
  3. Find a mentor within your company, someone that you respect and trust, to bounce ideas off of when you need to strategize.  Better yet, find a mentor outside of your own department.  You’ll immediately increase your organizational knowledge (and theirs) two-fold. Regarding mentorship, Brigitte says: “When there are tricky issues, you’ll have someone to go to that you know won’t judge you…Be brave, if there is someone that you admire in your company ask them if they have the time to meet with you for a brief coffee once a month.”
  4.  Always act ethically, even when others don’t.  Listen to your internal voice and remember that going with the flow isn’t always the right course.  Stand your ground tactfully and strategically, keeping the bigger picture in mind.   Julianne LaMarche’s advice?  “Never put someone on the defense and never make someone else look bad.”  Brigitte’s? “If you’re going to go down, make sure it’s for a really good reason.  Be very careful and know when to pick your battles.”
  5.  Finally, it’s easier to build a positive reputation than repair one.  Start off on the right foot on day one because fixing others’ negative perceptions of you will prove to be a challenge.  Julianne reminds us, “People remember how you behave… your actions will stay with you for a long time.”

So, it’s time re-think what office politics really means.  Office politics is simply strategic internal networking.  By understanding the who’s who in your organization and skillfully influencing those relationships to get projects accomplished, you’ll get your name out there, highlight your skills and realize a stronger career path.

By re-associating the word as a tool for building your network and establishing your reputation within your organization, you’ll not only survive office politics, you’ll thrive because of them.

Check back in our next blog for information on revealing your passion.

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