Now that you have been introduced to Office Politics, it is time to talk about how you can be successful!

As I described earlier, I will be covering this topic in three podcasts. The first podcast provided an introduction. This podcast is about how you can be successful. And the third will cover managing your team.

You can get the slides that I used here.


  1. Be Thoughtful
  2. Read the System
  3. Build a Good Reputation
  4. Find Common Ground

Starting off with a quote.

“When people respond too quickly, they often respond to the wrong issue. Listening helps us focus on the heart of the conflict.

When we listen, understand, and respect each other’s ideas, we can then find a solution in which both of us are winners.“

Dr. Gary Chapman

Be Thoughtful

As you consider office politics, it is important to stop, take a breath and realize that you need to understand your motivations.

  • Know what you are trying to achieve.
  • Be aware you have choices.
  • Different organizations have different cultures.
  • Dual ladder, not everyone needs to be a manager.
  • Consider your desired work-life balance.
  • Understand your personality, what gives you energy and what takes it away.

Read the System

The key to being successful in office politics is realizing that it is neither good nor bad, just how things work. Therefore, to be successful, you have to understand how things work. I call this reading the system.

  • How do things get done?
    • What are the decision-making processes?
    • Who is formally involved in these processes?
    • And who are informally involved (influencers)?
  • For everyone involved in making decisions
    • Who do they depend on? Who would you consider their inner circle?
    • What motivates them? What are they interested in and what are they not?
  • For the processes, how do they work?
    • Are they formal and written down, or informal?
    • What opportunities exist to engage in the process?

I introduced a tool from Harvard Business Review that might be helpful in mapping the political terrain of your company. See the slides for more on this.

Manage Up

Spend time observing your boss and their boss. Figure out what’s important.

Once you do, engage them in conversations and information exchanges where their interests and your job intersect. Don’t assume upper management knows anything about what you do or how you contribute – so, tell them!

Adapt their priorities and keep them updated. It’s hard to not totally love and support someone who has your back as a boss.

Form Mutually Beneficial Relationships

We form relationships for selfish reasons, even if it is simply because we like the other person. It’s time for you to think more strategically.

Who in the organization is in a position of influence or power? Who are the stars? Of these, who are the people that you would feel comfortable building a relationship with?

What’s in it for them? What do you bring to the party?

Figure it out and then focus on that as you form these strategic relationships.

Build a Good Reputation

One of the best ways to be successful in politics is to develop a good reputation.

  • Be nice (fair?) to everyone
  • Be a team player
  • Don’t whine and complain
  • Do a Great Job
  • Be visible
  • Mind your manners
  • Don’t get personal
  • Help Others to Succeed (especially your Boss)

Find Common Ground

There are times to go to the mat to get what you want. And there are times to let it go and move on. Here is how to think about finding common ground.

  • Seek to understand, before being understood
  • Separate the idea from the person
  • Determine the gap, where do you differ?
  • Be objective
  • Provide alternatives
  • Consider engaging others
  • Look for win-win

Know When to Fold

Not every issue is worth fighting for.

  • Cost higher than the value of winning
  • Value of quid pro quo is high enough
  • Risk of losing political capital


That was a LOT of information. All of it is important. Here is what I would like you to do.

  • “Read the System” for your company. Understand how things work.

See Also

Categories: Leadership


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