How to win at office politics

It is impossible to go through working life without having to
engage in some office politics, writes Nathalie
. Despite the negative connotations of
back-stabbing and counter-briefing, politicking can actually
produce plenty of positive outcomes. In a profession where
reorganising and restructuring are common and team-working at a
premium, it is well worth learning the rules of office

Why it matters
Winning at politics is about understanding what you need
to do to get the best outcome for you or your team. Understanding
how to operate will enhance everything you do: your suggestions are
more likely to be listened to and colleagues will be more willing
to help you with a difficult case.

Coping with change
Office politics are a staple of most working environments
but become particularly prevalent during times of change. People
feel insecure about their future and instead of focusing on their
job will spend time defending their territory. “In times of
transition it’s important to provide support and keep people
informed,” says Peter Richards, team manager of Surrey Council’s
south east children’s asylum team. His section was recently
integrated with the education team and he believes it’s important
that change should not come as a shock. “It’s not just about
articulating strategy; you need to make sure people understand what
is happening and give them the opportunity to express their

Emotional intelligence
Success in office politics involves taking the time to
understand other people. If you see how colleagues respond in
different situations you will have a much better idea of how to
approach them. If you find out someone is upset because you haven’t
consulted them on a particular project it would be advisable to
involve them in some other way. “You must have emotional
intelligence so you can pick up on any tensions,” says Richards.
“If you have your ear to the ground you can really use it to your

The best office politicians possess well-developed people skills
and listen and respond appropriately to those around them.

Gag the gossip
Gossip is best avoided. Commenting when you don’t know the
full story is a bad idea as you never know what someone’s
motivation may be. Richards believes it’s also very important to be
sensitive to others. “You never know what baggage someone has, so
it’s best to be neutral and let people tell you if there is an

Sell your ideas
If you work in a slow moving bureaucratic organisation it can be
hard to get new ideas adopted. You will have to develop your
influencing and negotiating skills and work deftly to get other
people behind you. Make sure you sound as if you know what you’re
talking about and make other people feel involved in what you’re
doing. “Be strategic, think long term and be prepared to sell your
ideas so you can generate enthusiasm from others,” recommends Linda
Holbeche, director of research and strategy at education charity
Roffey Park.

Value your peers
Work out who in the organisation has an effect on what you
do. If you have done good work for people you will find it easier
to build relationships and they will be prepared to help you when
you need it. “This doesn’t just mean going to the top of your
organisation,” says Holbeche. “Focus on those in your field and
don’t neglect your peers as they are important too.”

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