'Mindful Monday': Office politics is not optional

Jul 10, 2016


Nancy Fredericks

Nancy Fredericks pens Women Lead Change's "Mindful Mondays" column, appearing the second Monday of every month. Fredericks is a preeminent Business Executive Strategist, Author and Thought Leader. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Adobe, Allergan and Transamerica have retained her to optimize individual and organizational performance. You can find her at www.CareerStretchZone.com. The views of Nancy Frederick's blogs represent her own and not necessarily the views of Women Lead Change.

Nothing stirs up discord among business executives more than the topic of office politics.

At its core, office politics is an expression of unequal power either because of positional authority or influential relations. This disparity gives some in the organization more clout than others and triggers employees vying for finite resources, attention, and recognition.

Office politics isn’t innately evil. It just is.

You alone determine whether it is good or bad for your career prospects by how you choose to incorporate office politics into your actions and reactions.

On the positive side, office politics is part and parcel of the organizational processes that aids in producing quick, efficient, and sustainable results. It encompasses the strategies employees utilize to be effective. More specifically, office politics incorporates the skills of promoting (in a good way) projects for the greater good of the company as well as orchestrating the direction of their career.

On the downside, office politics has and can destroy the career of exceptional human beings not to mention the innovative voice of the employee who has neither the positional authority nor the supportive relationships to promote ideas.

Think for a moment. Would you want to report to a boss or be part of a division with little political clout where you’re always drawing the short corporate resource end of the straw? How effective would you be if you were the last executive to hear about the organizational change initiative? Would you want to march lock-step toward a career that neither excites you nor relies on the skill sets that energizes you and makes work enjoyable?

Frustrating situations, such as these, are encountered time-after-time by executives who blame the organization for their stuck career. And yet, the cause is often not the company’s responsibility rather it is the unintended consequences of an executive’s lack of people connections. Without visibility, it's hard to distinguish yourself from your peers. It is highly unlikely you will influence your organization. And it is rare that resources are cast your way.

The power of a diverse, inter-connected network is a sure sign that an executive has taken the first step toward establishing a thriving career. Such wide-ranging relationships directly link to early promotion, career mobility, managerial effectiveness, securing resources, influencing decisions and so much more. Without these connections, you handicap your chances of success, and constrain your ability to influence a healthy organizational environment.

Ultimately, office politics is a values consideration. Living a career of integrity requires courage. You choose how you interact with and respond to office politics—no one else.

If you concluded the only way you can enhance your career trajectory is by participating in backstabbing or self-aggrandizing or withdrawing from the fray, then I would suggest you’re not cut out to be a leader. After all, leaders separate themselves from the pack and achieve what they need for their career and their company by role modeling office politics that boosts rather than harms the work environment.

So, dive into office politics and be true to your values. No matter what the outcome, you will be a better executive for it, and your company will benefit.