How to Play Office Politics Without Getting Dirty

If you’ve been working hard for the same employer for several years and find yourself standing still as colleagues pass you on their way up the corporate ladder, it could be due to your resistance to office politics

While workplace politicking can be a dirty game, it is an undeniable part of organizational life, and it exists in both public and private sectors. It's understandable why many refuse to engage; however, there are some useful tactics to help ease any concerns and better navigate through the political waters.

Accept office politics for what it is. When people come together in a group of any kind a culture forms within that group and from that culture comes politics. Some might refer to it as a herd mentality or groupthink—but at its core, it’s office politics. The intensity of office politics can vary, but it’s always present, so it’s important to accept it and learn how to maneuver around it to achieve your career goals.

Don’t take it all so seriously. One of the biggest mistakes professionals make is getting overwhelmed or defeated by the political game. When you take it all so seriously it’s going to beat you, so loosen up about it. Reframe how you’re thinking about engaging in the ‘game.’ Office politics is nothing more than forming strategic alliances and professional relationships.

Keep your political nose clean. Engaging in office politics does not mean you have to play dirty. Always remember the golden rule: Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Avoid gossiping or engaging in the office where it does not serve a professional purpose and always keep your intentions driven by your goal to get the job done.

Be self aware. If you feel like you’re always on the outside, looking in at work, it’s time to evaluate your actions. Take stock in how you interact with others and present yourself in the work space. You might have personality nuances, such as interrupting when others are speaking or wearing your emotions on your sleeve, that are inhibiting your advancement. If you’re unsure of any potential character flaws, find a close friend, colleague or family member and ask for honest feedback.

Stop thinking of your boss as someone you should fear. You should never fear your boss. Avoiding contact with the boss is a sure way to prevent career growth. After all, you both share the same goal: getting the job done. It might be uncomfortable at first, but finding ways to regularly interact with your boss is necessary for being successful in office politics and in your career. It also keeps you visible and on the radar for opportunities.

Wall Street veteran Lindsay Broder (on twitter: @occurpeneur) is a certified professional coach known as The Occupreneur Coach. Based in New York, she specializes in Occupreneur coaching, strategy & consulting services for business leaders, other highly successful professionals & organizations who strive to improve one or more aspects of their businesses or careers.