Empower Yourself with the Truth: Step Three = Recognize and Use Office Politics Positively


In my last post, I wrote about asserting your own power, with themes from Chapter 6 of Geoffrey M. Bellman’s book, Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge. This week, I am commenting on Chapter 7 of Bellman’s book, on the fascinating subject of corporate politics.

I once had a guy who worked for me who said he hated corporate politics. He was a direct communicator and despised people he thought spent their time positioning themselves to look good. But there is a huge difference between office politics and sucking up.

So how do we deal with corporate politics in a positive way?

1.       Recognize That Corporate Politics Are Real

The theme of this series of posts about Bellman’s book is “empowering yourself with the truth.” The truth is that any group of people is political. The words “politics” and “political” come from the Greek word for “city” or “townspeople.” Any time people gather, politics are involved.

Get over your dislike of politics. It’s real, and it’s everywhere. Bellman says

“Politics has been called the art of getting things done. . . . They are not basically good or bad; they are neutral, to do with as we will. Political goodness or badness flows from the intent and impact of our actions.” 

It’s your choice whether your involvement in corporate politics is good or bad. What are your intentions and impacts in your organization?


 2. Base Your Actions on Your Principles

As Bellman points out, being a political actor does not mean giving up your principles. In fact, here is a summary of Bellman’s steps necessary to integrate your politics with your principles:

  • Know your principles 
  • Acknowledge the reality of corporate politics
  • Recognize that you are a part of the politics in your organization
  • Understand that you will have to consider the political ramifications of what you want to get done
  • Be clear ahead of time about what you will and will not do to use politics – who you will engage to support you and how. 

If you take these steps, you can participate in the politics of your organization without feeling like you are compromising your principles. Perhaps my colleague who so disdained politics needed to think about these steps.

3. Support Healthy Behaviors in Your Organization 

Bellman’s book, written in 1992 before the age of constant email and chats, is a little dated. He prefers face to face meetings over phone calls, memos and faxes.

But his point is that relationships are important in any organization, and relationships are best built face to face. How will you foster your relationships in today’s environment? In some situations, there is no substitute for the feedback and nuances of communication you can get in a face to face meeting.

Regardless of the communications techniques you use, you should find ways to connect with others in your organization. Determine what goals you share and how you can understand each other, even if you do not always agree.

Have your perceptions of office politics changed as a result of anything you read in this post?

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Filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Workplace

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