Office Politics: Do You Know How to Play Them?

by Marcia Zidle, Featured Contributor

There’s too much wrangling and maneuvering going on. Joe really knows how to get on his boss’s good side. I hate this politicking….I just want to do my job.

THESE ARE THINGS I hear in my leadership programs. Are these the types of comments you might make as well? Whether you hate it, admire it, practice it or avoid it, office politics is a fact of life! And, like it or not, it’s something that you need to understand to be successful no matter what business or organization you work for.

office-politics2Office politics can be defined as the strategies that people use to gain advantage personally or for a cause they support. The term often has a negative connotation because some people use it to seek advantage at the expense of others. Good “office politics”, on the other hand, helps you to promote yourself and your cause in a fair and appropriate way.

Why It’s Important
If you deny the bad politics that may be going on around you and avoid dealing with them, you may needlessly suffer while others take unfair advantage. And, if you avoid practicing good politics, you miss the opportunities to further your own interests and those of your team and your cause.

Making Politics Work For You
To deal effectively with office politics and use it in a positive way, you must first accept the reality of it. Second you need to be a good observer. Third you then bring into play the information you gathered to build strong networks and to start influencing others – which is what good politics is about. Here are strategies to get started.

1. Re-map the organization chart
Office politics often circumvents the formal organization chart. Sit back and watch for a while and then re-map the organization chart in terms of political power.

  • Who are the real influencers?
  • Who is the “go to guy” when things need to get done?
  • Who champions or mentors others?
  • Who is “the brains behind the organization”?

2. Understand the informal network
Once you know who’s who in the organization, you have a good idea of where the power and influence lay. Now you have to understand the social networks.

  • Who gets along with whom?
  • Who eats together? Works out together? Commutes together?
  • Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
  • What is the basis or commonality for the groups or cliques?

3. Build strong relationships
Now that you know how the existing relationships work, start building your own social network accordingly.

  • Do not be afraid of politically powerful people in the organization. Get to know them.
  • Ensure you have relationships in all directions (peers, bosses, executives)”
  • Be a part of multiple networks. This way you can keep your finger on the pulse of the organization.

Smart Moves Tip
Office politics are a fact of life. Positive or negative politics happens. If you don’t participate in the political game, you risk not having a say in what happens to you and perhaps your team. This allows people with less experience, skill or knowledge to influence decisions being made around you and about you.

If you like this post, take a look at others on my Smart Moves Blog with performance boosters, skill builders, status quo busters and tidbits of humor and inspiration! 

Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!


  1. Ah, office politics. You are quite right, Marcia, that they exist in every organization with more that two people. You can play or sit on the bench.

    I strongly agree with your first point. The “power organizational chart” never matches the one published. There are dotted lines all over the place.

    First step has to be to redraw the chart as to how it really works, not how it is professed to work. Then, and only then, can you identify the players and the parts they play in the drama.



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