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6 Tips to Navigate Office Politics

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

By Deborah Grossman

No workplace is perfect. Office politics exist everywhere — though in varying types and degrees. Research shows its prevalence: It has been reported that 93% of managers claim workplace politics exist in their organization, and 70% feel that to achieve success, a person must engage in politics. Although power and organizational politics are common, they often are the elephant in the room. “They are the unseen, the unheard, and the unspoken topic,” said Jacqueline Strayer, communication and marketing thought leader, at AMA New York’s event, “Power and Organizational Politics.”

So what can you do when you’re working in an organization? Here are six suggestions Jacqueline discussed during the webinar to increase your own power position and navigate office politics:

1. Understand Your Organization’s Culture 

Knowledge is power. Knowing the key players in your organization helps you understand the workplace power dynamics and build strategic relationships. However, figuring this all out takes time. “Oftentimes, this isn’t achieved overnight,” Jacqueline mentioned. A helpful exercise you can do is map out the key people in power, providing you with essential information for navigating your workplace.

2. Focus on Your Job and Do It Well 

When you start to feel powerless, you might feel distracted or want to withdraw. Don’t do this. Do your job and do it well, recommended Jacqueline. “That becomes really important. When we start feeling powerless, we sometimes feel we have to retreat. This is a move that diminishes the power you do have.”

3. Emphasize Your Strengths

Focus on your strengths  — your skills and expertise that you bring to the organization. Perhaps you’re a strong writer, or a strategic thinker, or a dynamic relationship builder. Whatever your strengths may be, highlight them. But, at the same time, don’t forget your weaknesses. Why? “Be mindful of your weaknesses because people can play into them,” explained Jacqueline.

4. Realize That Power Can Change

Understand that power is fluid, sometimes fluctuating suddenly. “When someone is in a position of power and then falls in disfavor, the people closely aligned with this person who has fallen from grace get associated with that person, and now their power is affected,” Jacqueline said. For this reason, knowing who and how you associate with others in the workplace is important. 

5. Develop Your Personal Power

“The key to getting power is dependence,” said Jacqueline. So how can you build on your own personal power? Here are some things you can do: 

  • Enhance your communication skills 
  • Grow your relationships and networks 
  • Exhibit your values and a strong sense of character
  • Showcase your expertise and capabilities that benefit the organization 
  • Build your emotional intelligence and self-awareness

6. Know That Small Things Make a Difference

“When we think about the notion of power, small things matter,” Jacqueline said. Just doing one positive thing a day, such as a tiny generous or kind gesture, can have a huge impact and do wonders for you. How? She explained, “You will reap big rewards, not only in your relationships and networks, but ultimately in your own personal and professional power.”

Deborah Grossman is a digital marketing professional. Since 2019, she has been active in AMA New York and serves as the Director of Content and Strategy. In 2020, Deborah received AMA New York’s Marketing Volunteer Spotlight Award for outstanding contributions to the organization.