Office Politics

Get Ahead Without Playing Dirty

Office politics is part of every workplace
••• Sydney Roberts / DigitalVision / Getty Images

The term "office politics" is usually associated with the concept of getting ahead at work by using cut-throat tactics. Another way of looking at it, however, makes it seem a bit less unsavory. Rather than thinking of office politics as climbing the corporate ladder by stepping on other people's hands on the rungs below, we can instead define it as advancing in one's career by knowing how to navigate an organization's political structure gracefully.

Don't Play Dirty

Using office politics to trample people will cause nothing but strife in your workplace. Playing dirty to get ahead will irritate your coworkers, leaving you isolated, and it is nearly impossible to do your job without your coworkers' support. Even if it's possible to make it to the top, no one will be there to enjoy it with you.

It is entirely unnecessary—and self-defeating—to play dirty. Putting all your energy into using underhanded tactics to get ahead will cause you to lose focus on doing your job well. It will be almost impossible to accomplish anything worthwhile and will diminish your opportunity to impress your boss.

Rather than using energy to dream up cut-throat ways to get ahead at work, instead use it to learn some rules that will help you make the best of office politics.

Rules for Using Office Politics

  • Make sure to understand your organization's formal and informal hierarchies. While every entity has an official organizational chart, there is also an unofficial structure at play. For example, according to the written chain of command, the vice president in charge of your division may appear to make all the decisions. In reality, it may be her second in command who does.
  • Apprise higher-ups of your accomplishments. Often people are afraid to toot their own horns because it feels like they are bragging. However, if you don't let those who are in charge know about what you've been doing, who will? When it comes time for them to make decisions about who to promote, they should know who you are and what you have contributed to the company's bottom line. Also, be congenial and congratulate your coworkers on their achievements.
  • Be kind to your boss's administrative assistant or secretary. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it can also affect your success. He or she has the power to grant access to your boss and may have influence over some of his or her decisions.
  • Respect your coworkers. Like you, most of the people with whom you work want to do a good job. A pleasant environment makes it easier for everyone to achieve their goals as well as the organization's goals. When employees work together, it does more for an employer's bottom line than when individual workers look out only for their own best interests.
  • Learn how to deal with annoying coworkers. There are a variety of personality types in every workplace and, unfortunately, not all are going to be pleasant. Knowing how to deal with even the most difficult colleagues will make your life easier and help you avoid trouble.
  • Never spread gossip, but pay attention to everything you hear. While some of it will be false, quite a few things will be accurate, or at least have a grain of truth to them. Don't act on anything until you know it is true, but have a strategy in the works.
  • Avoid becoming the subject of gossip at work. It can damage your reputation and, subsequently, your career, if your boss makes decisions based on it. Keep personal information to yourself, or at least don't share it with anyone who is untrustworthy.
  • Don't offend anyone by discussing controversial topics. Among these topics are religion and politics.
  • Lose your negative attitude at work. Instead of complaining about problems, find ways to fix them. Bring your valid complaints, along with your suggestions for how to make improvements, to those who have the power to make a change. It will allow your superiors to see you as a proactive employee instead of one who complains just for the sake of complaining.