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The Politics of Office Politics

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The Politics of Office Politics

By Michelle Yozzo Drake

Reality check here: just accept the fact that you're never going to escape office politics. They seem to be as much a part of the workplace as coffee breaks and carpal tunnel syndrome.

But that doesn't mean that you have to be a victim of power plays and rivalries.

Wouldn't you just love it if someone could give you ways that you can make office politics work to your advantage?

Well, I'm Michelle Yozzo Drake, and today I'm going to be giving you my top strategies for making office politics work for you.

The first one...you might not like so much. The first tip is about taking that brutally honest look in the mirror. Be really hard on yourself, and explore where your strengths are. Understand what you're good at, and make sure that then you focus on what you're trying to achieve in the workplace based on what you're actually good at...not what you can get by at...but what you're incredibly amazing at.

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Most of us have a tendency to spend a lot of time trying to fix the things that are broken about us, the things that we struggle with, instead of building upon the strengths that we have. When you make sure that your work lines up with what you're really great at, you provide an opportunity for yourself to shine in your organization. You can start to look for opportunities that you can demonstrate the things that you are great at, go after projects that really highlight the areas that you are strong.

My second tip is about not reinventing the wheel. Office politics has been going on forever. You need to find someone in your organization that has the same kind of characteristics that you do, but is incredibly successful in a position of power. They have figured out how to tap into the strengths and get the exposure they need. That's the kind of person that you want to model yourself after; you want to watch; you want to learn. Learn from the things that they do right, but also learn from where they fall so that you don't get tripped up on the same things.

Once you've figured out what you're great at, you've taken some time to watch others that are successful that hold the same type of qualities, then you go into building alliances. Start by creating a file on the key people in your organization that you would like to develop a relationship with, people that you think might be able to help you move forward in your career and get you the kinds of things that you want out of your job. In this file, you're going to capture, what values are important to them? And, is there value system aligned with your value system? When you see that the integrity issue is in-line, then it's an alliance that you should walk towards.

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Take a look at what key projects they're working on. Are they things that you might want to get involved with? Take a look at key causes that they're involved with. There's a large part of office politics that has nothing to do with the actual work that's done. It has to do with hobbies that we have outside of work; it has to do with charitable work that we do outside of the office. Think about ways that you might be able to interact with this person. Find ways that you might be able to place yourself in the same arena as them. If you're volunteering at a charitable organization, there is no hierarchy. You are now on a level playing field with someone who might be three steps up in your organization who could be a tremendous advocate for you.

The last tip for today? It's all about the action...taking it! Making sure that your actions are aligned with your goals, and that each of the actions you take supports you getting closer to your goals. So if you want to switch departments, if you want to change and work in another part of your organization, don't go and complain around the water cooler - take some action! Find out: who are the players in this new department that you'd like to move to? How might you be able to start to earn some of their respect? How can you speak frankly with...maybe your supervisor? They can help you take the steps you need to secure that promotion or that move.

By waiting to see what happens, you give your power to someone else. I'm a huge advocate in taking control of your own life and taking the steps that you need to in order to achieve everything that you can. So don't complain if you've just been floating along, expecting that your company is going to create a management track or a career advancement track for you. You need to take the opportunity that office politics holds for you. And all office politics is, is how we interact with others. Leverage those office politics to be able to get what you want - not an "at everyone else's expense" perspective, but from the perspective of strategically growing your career.


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“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” – Nelson Mandela