Office Politics

How to Get Ahead at Work Without Playing Dirty

Office politics is part of every workplace
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Office politics is the concept of getting ahead at work through means other than simply hoping the powers-that-be will recognize your accomplishments. It doesn't have to be as distasteful as that definition implies, however. While we often think of office politics as climbing the corporate ladder by stepping on other people's hands on the rungs below or kissing up to those in power, we can also define it as advancing in one's career by knowing how to navigate an organization's political structure with grace.

Don't Play Dirty

The cut-throat tactics common to the way we typically think of office politics causes nothing but strife in the workplace. Playing dirty to get ahead will make people dislike you. It's hard to do your job when you are the office pariah. You don't have to play dirty and be one of those people who connives his way to the top. That will only cause you to lose focus on doing your job well which certainly won't impress your boss. Now that you know a bit about office politics and what you shouldn't do, here are some rules that will help you use office politics properly.

Rules for Using Office Politics

  • Know your employer's formal and informal hierarchy. While every entity has a formal organizational chart, there is also an informal structure at play. For example it may look like the vice president in charge of your department makes all the decisions, it may really be her second in command who does.
  • Toot your own horn. Don't be afraid to inform people of your accomplishments. You should especially make sure the people who have the power to make decisions about your career trajectory know about them. Either tell them directly or tell someone who you know will share that information. Also congratulate your coworkers on their achievements.
  • Be nice to your boss's assistant or secretary. He is the gatekeeper that controls access to her so it is in your best interests to be nice to him, aside from it just being the right thing to do.
  • Respect your coworkers. Remember that most of the people you work with, like you, are trying to do a good job. A pleasant workplace makes it easier for everyone. Employees working together will do more for the organization's bottom line than individual workers looking out only for their own best interests.
  • Learn how to deal with annoying coworkers. You have to deal with a lot of different personality types in any workplace. Unfortunately, not everyone you work with is going to be pleasant. Knowing how to deal with even those people who are difficult will make your life easier and could keep you out of trouble.
  • Take advantage of the office grapevine. While you should never spread gossip, you should pay attention to what you hear, separate the truth from the lies and use what you learn to help you make decisions and plan your strategy.
  • Avoid becoming the subject of workplace gossip. Don't share information about yourself that can damage your reputation.
  • Try not to offend anyone by discussing controversial topics. This includes religion and politics.
  • Turn workplace negativity into positive change. If you see something you don't like, don't just complain to anyone who will listen. Instead, do something about it. Bring your complaints to those who have the power to make changes but first have a plan for fixing the problem. It will allow others to see you as a proactive employee not as someone who complains for the sake of complaining.