How Smart Women Win in Office Politics

Do you enjoy dealing with office politics? Often, the mention of the word “politics” only triggers a negative connotation. By changing your perspective on politics, and leveraging your network, you can dramatically increase your chances of recognition and advancement.

Do you enjoy dealing with office politics?

Becoming politically aware is not always seen as a healthy and viable goal. The mention of the word “politics” only provokes negative connotations.

A Senior Financial Manager has said “I refuse to schmooze and manipulate to get ahead”. However he was frustrated after he was passed for promotion twice. The two male colleagues who were promoted in front of him were less qualified, but were superior in politics.

In her article entitled Seven Career Killers, author Erin Burt warns “… avoiding politics completely can be deadly to your career. Every workplace has a complex power system, and you can – and should – work ethically to your best advantage.” By becoming proficient in politics, you can learn to:

– Rise above the power of play and interpersonal conflict
– Build a reputation as a person, expert, or leader
– Get access to resources, information and opportunities
– Influence results and get buy-ins for ideas and initiatives.

As you gain the ability to navigate office politics effectively, I urge you to let go of negative assumptions about office politics and to consider these alternative perspectives:

New Perspective # 1: Replace the word “Politics” with the term “Organizational Awareness.” Doesn’t that sound better already?

New Perspective # 2: Politics at work is about understanding communication and relationships, which women can excel at.

Guideline for Perspective # 3: Make a personal commitment to use your organizational awareness in an ethical and authentic way.

Now that you’re armed with a positive perspective, consider taking the following steps to use office politics to your strategic advantage.

Step 1: Mapping the Shadow Organization

In line with the traditional corporate hierarchical organizational chart there is what is known as a shadow organization. Shadow organizations are informal and informal networks of relationships and coalitions. Understand your shadow organization and you will understand how power and influence play out.

Investigate your imaginary organization playing the role of observer as if you were a corporate anthropologist. Notice who has influence, who is hanging out with whom. Find out who is respected and who is champion of others. Who is the center of corporate social interaction and intelligence? Find out who actually got things done.

Create a visual map showing all the key players. Classify each linkage, noting whether it was built on friendliness, advocacy, respect, or coercion. Pay attention to the strength of each connection, and the direction in which influence flows.

For example, when the Project Manager maps out his shadow organization, he finds he has strong ties to peers, but not with higher ones.

Step 2: Build Relationships

Identify the people who will build the relationship. Take at least a month to build your network without imposing an agenda on either relationship.

A Human Resources Manager went out of her way to build a strong relationship with her company’s marketing department after she saw they were always hearing about new products and trends for the first time. Having access to this information allowed him to gain greater credibility in his own department, where he now has the reputation of having a finger on the pulse of business.

Step 3: Make the Most of Your Network

Once the relationship matures, your network can help you achieve valuable goals and influence. For example, you can use the network to build visibility, increase difficult relationships, gain access to information, and attract opportunities.

These hiring perspectives and steps work well for Senior Finance Managers turned in for promotion. He knows that his boss and his team don’t recognize its value to the company. By mapping relationships and spheres of influence he realized how to gain recognition and influence. His most recent research topic was hot button issues for his VP, so he mentioned his findings to him in a pass. At an all-in-hand meeting, he singled out her for praise, and recommended that their entire organization learn from its focus on their business goals. He continues to build his relationship with VP by constantly updating his progress.
By changing Anabout politics, and using your network, you can dramatically increase your chances of recognition and advancement.

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