• Ask most people about workplace politics and they’ll say they’d prefer to avoid it. Yet, most also know that developing political competence is not a choice; it’s a necessity. The ones who who manage to reach the inner circle are at a great advantage. They get more done, but they are also recognized for their competence and ability to manage interpersonal relationships. (View Highlight)
  • Handling public put-downs, knowing with whom to speak about what, understanding how to move projects along, realizing the right times to make yourself visible and how to make your work relevant are only a few important skills. Achieving a high level of political expertise is not easy — nor is maintaining it. Mastery will never be total or permanent. After all, the inner circles of business shift. Even the best senior-level engineer may stall out because she lacks the ability to manage or avoid the political traps that ensnare so many otherwise competent people. (View Highlight)
  • In minimally political companies what you see is largely what you get. Standards for promotions and expectations for managing and leading are made clear. There is a sense of camaraderie. Rules are occasionally bent and favors granted, but underhanded forms of politics are avoided. This is the type of organization in which those with little understanding of or interest in politics — the purists among us — can thrive. (View Highlight)
  • Moderately political organizations also operate largely on widely understood, formally sanctioned rules. Political behavior, where it does exist, is low-key or deniable. Conflicts are unusual, as there is a team player mentality. This environment works for people who’d rather not engage in politics, but are capable of managing or living with pockets of political activity. (View Highlight)
  • The highly political arena is where not understanding politics and being unwilling to engage in some of its more surreptitious forms can exact a price. Formally sanctioned rules are only invoked when convenient to those with power. In-groups and out-groups are usually well defined. Who you know is likely to be more important than what you know. Working in organizations like this can be very stressful. Political street-fighters who “read the tea leaves” and “know the ropes,” as politically adept business people I’ve interviewed call it, do far better than those who don’t keep abreast of the games being played. (View Highlight)
  • The most virulent forms of business politics occur in pathologically political organizations. Daily interaction is fractious. Nearly every goal is achieved by going around people or formal procedures. People distrust each other — and for good reason. Out of necessity, people spend a good deal of time watching their backs and far less gets done than might otherwise be achieved. (View Highlight)
  • Management expert Henry Mintzberg wrote of these types of organizations: “Much as the scavengers that swarm over a carcass are known to serve a political function in nature, so too can the political conflicts that engulf a dying organization serve a positive function in society. Both help to speed up the recycling of necessary resources.” The only problem: These types of organizations take a while to die, and so a lot of talented people are caught up for quite a while in politics run amuck. (View Highlight)
  • Fortunately, most of us don’t work for pathological organizations and we don’t drive to work wondering who will be figuratively poisoning our wells today. But even more rare is the organization where politics of any type barely exists. Wherever there is competition, especially for scarce resources, you’ll find politics. (View Highlight)
  • Read about workplace politics and observe those who are skilled. Treat it like any other important area of business expertise. (View Highlight)
  • Try tweaking how and when you say things. For instance, if others expect you to be demure and let them steal your ideas at meetings, learn some ways of asserting yourself. For example, you could say: “I mentioned that option earlier. I’d like to expand upon it a bit more now.” (View Highlight)
  • Consider to whom you’re giving power and alter that if it’s getting you nowhere. Find another way to get what you want or change the goal. (View Highlight)
  • Break out of dysfunctional patterns, such as repeatedly taking on low visibility, low value projects to please someone; always having to be right rather than crediting others for their input; or failing to choose your battles instead of learning what matters most. (View Highlight)
  • Be less predictable, because predictability is the kiss of death in political organizations. For example, if you’re constantly attempting to prove yourself, but you lack guidance and a support network, you can leave yourself open to political foul play. The more predictable you are, the easier it is for others to manage you to their own advantage. (View Highlight)