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4 Nov 2010

Play Politics or Risk Your Job

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.

4 Responses

  1. Part of the reason some people are not playing politics is that they don’t know why it’s important or how to do it.

    Rather than merely advising people that they need to do it, I suggest suggesting specific books to them, of which there are many. I became intersted in office politics after losing a job myself because of not paying attention to these things, and “just doing my job.” I fortunately got my job back a week later by going over my boss’s head, to the head of the company. After that, I searched out some books on Amazon, which I would highly recommend to others.

    The Bully at Work (in which I learned that only a small percentage of people are able to get their jobs back, and that the only way is the way I had done it, by going to the boss’s boss…), but I learned about so many things which I wish I had known a years earlier when the problems started for me, and I simply felt confused about what was happening, but just tried to ignore it and keep doing my job (the entirely wrong thing to do).

    I also read a couple books with titles like “Winning at Office Politics.” I learned a LOT of things and wish I had read these books when I was 20 (not that they were around then). I also recognized, looking back, that a former boss 20 years ago had tried to help me out with a comment he made to me, which I did not recognize at the time (as I now would) that he was trying to advise me on on how to play office politics well with others!

    Great post, as usual.

    1. Thank you, Expat21. I’ll incorporate your suggestions as future posts. As I post them, I’ll reference your comment and this post. While I don’t have any books to recommend, I do have techniques to offer. More than likely they’ll be categorized under “techniques” and “influence.”

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