Once, a woman who had just joined a bank wanted to meet with me since I had experience working at a bank. After asking many questions, she apologized and said, “I just want to make sure I do a good job.” I responded, “Well, first, you have to realize that just doing a good job is no guarantee of keeping your job even if no one is being laid off. Focus more on the relationships you have with your co-workers and most importantly your boss.”
Influencing others is a form of power and as is being increasingly shown simply being good at what you do isn’t the best way to expand your power at work. Consider Schumpeter’s commentary, The Will to Power, of the September 11, 2010 issue of The Economist. He references Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book Paths to Power in which he claims attributes “such as the ability to project drive and self-confidence” as being more important. Note he said “ability to project” and not “have.”
How many times have we all heard someone (or ourselves) say, “Well, I just don’t play politics,” or “I’m not good at the politics”? Yes, the negative connotation of politics implies that these are positive attributes and gives us positive feelings for rationalizing bad experiences. On the other hand, politics is really about managing our interpersonal relationships. When they are ones we enjoy we call it teamwork; when they are ones we don’t we call it politics.
No matter what we call it, if we don’t do it well, we risk not only the diminishing of our power at work but our jobs.