Originally posted in @Medium
You can’t begin to understand office politics until you’ve actually failed at it. Why did you get laid off and Jane and Joe didn’t? Why did Elsa get that promotion when on paper you’re clearly the more competent, capable applicant? How did Joachim get to lead that prize initiative? Why is the company sending Itzaak or Flora to that marquee event? How did some people get recognized for something that really your entire team was responsible for producing?
When someone else gets what you deserve, that person likely has a better relationship with the decision-maker than you do. Workplace success isn’t about being manipulative; it’s about challenging workplace rules that happen to be unnecessary and debilitating.
What we call “office politics” is really about strategic intra-company relationships.
In every company there are employees who are consistently underappreciated, under-measured, and under-rewarded. There are hardworking people with really good ideas and instincts, who just seem to be in a permanent rut. I submit that what happened to those people has nothing to do with their education, intelligence, manners, or appearance. It isn’t any obvious factor that stalled their rise through the ranks. Rather they failed to figure out what relationships they need to get ahead.
Some people pick up on the art of politics and thrive in that environment. They develop a talent for recognizing the explicit or implicit workplace “rules” that are actually just mental baggage, holding people back.
My goal is to shift your lens to see how office politics actually work. When you understand which rules exist, why they exist, and when it makes sense to find a way around them, through strategic relationships, you can make the workplace ecosystem work for you.
I’ve identified nine workplace beliefs that tend to hold people back. I’ll state the “rule” and follow it with the change in perspective I suggest you consider.
- “There are two sides to every coin.” Says who? To think and lead differently, you must see beyond black and white.
- “Work hard and success follows.” If nobody knows about it, how will you ever create awareness for that value that you bring? Demand credit where credit is due—gently, and with humor.
- “Success comes from cooperation.” I’ve seen greater success come from discord. A certain level of pushback is healthy.
- “The Best ideas come from a brainstorm where everyone contributes.” More frequently, the best ideas come from one person’s singular, coherent vision.
- “To get people’s best work, you have to get them like you.” If you really want to push people to think differently, you need to excite or disturb them. That means you won’t be voted Ms. Congeniality.
- “It takes time to come back after failure.” Success often comes directly after failure, because you made an incremental change that made the critical difference. What blew up last time succeeds in a huge way this time.
- “To be respected, you have to behave consistently.” No one’s going to know what you think is important until you get a little excited. Show your passion.
- “People will like you if you fit in.” Wrong: It’s the differences in people that we gravitate toward.
- “Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.” We all have different styles, different preferences in how we like to be treated. Customize your relationships, don’t treat them like your mirror.
What we so glibly call “office politics” are real. People really do use their power within an organization to pursue agendas of self-interest. They gain access to status and authority at the expense of others, and without regard to the effect of their behavior on the organization’s ability to achieve its goals. Seen in this light, it’s clear that politics are fundamentally about relationships, the medium in which status and authority has value.
Your first step toward making the workplace ecosystem support your personal and political success is to understand that there will always be a massive number of rules in our society and in our professional environment. People who obey every rule tend to get fenced into smaller and smaller pastures. Opportunities for breakout success simply don’t come their way as often.
“Throw out the rules, protect and nurture the relationships”—that’s the only rule I absolutely recommend. If you feel office politics are going against you, develop your strategic relationships skills. When you have close working relationships with others up, down, and across the organization, you’ll develop a keen sense of when and how breaking “rules” can work in your favor.
- Succeeding in the workplace ecosystem isn’t about politics; rather, it’s about challenging rules that are unnecessary or unproductive.
- I’ve identified nine workplace rules that definitely could use a radical shift in perspective.
- Put your energy into developing strategic relationships, not learning to abide by every rule of office politics.
David Nour is an enterprise growth strategist and the thought leader on Relationship Economics® – the quantifiable value of business relationships. In a global economy that is becoming increasingly disconnected, The Nour Group, Inc. has attracted consulting engagements from over 100 marquee organizations in driving unprecedented growth through unique return on their strategic relationships. Nour has pioneered the phenomenon that relationships are the greatest off balance sheet asset any organizations possesses, large and small, public and private. He is the author of several books including the best selling Relationship Economics – Revised (Wiley), ConnectAbility (McGraw-Hill), The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Raising Capital (Praeger) and Return on Impact—Leadership Strategies for the age of Connected Relationships (ASAE). Learn more at www.NourGroup.com.