I hear frequently from women about their disdain for office politics. It annoys us, it feels disingenuous and it feels like it distorts the otherwise fairness of the rules. I believe it comes from some of the socialization we’ve learned from the time we were little girls: play nice, keep the playing field level. Little boys learn at an early age to get comfortable with the “one up, one down” way of being. When we see how this plays out in business, it doesn’t feel good.
Let me present you with an alternative perspective.
Office politics is one way of getting information into the system to accomplish a result. (See my recent newsletter on this topic: Career Management: Politics or Strategy?)
It’s not the politics at issue, it’s the motivation and intent of the person for what they are doing. Here’s what I mean.
If someone is using their relationships and influence to introduce misleading information, to take someone else down, or to be manipulative or mischievous, then, yes, they are misusing the “political process”.
If, however, someone is working the system to get promoted, is that bad? When they are communicating their objectives, getting to know decision makers and talking about their qualifications, they are proactively managing their career. Their intent is not bad; it’s no different than what we often want for ourselves, right? It’s the method that bothers us. Wouldn’t it be more fair if everyone just observed our good work and made decisions accordingly?
It doesn’t work that way. Managers need more information. They need to know more than just what they can observe. They need your perspective. They need to be reminded of you and your work. They need to know what you want. Don’t think about it as “political”, think about it as “strategic”.
Developing relationships, communicating information about yourself or something you want to achieve is a way of putting information into the system so it can be used. It’s all about intent and authenticity.
What are some positive things you can do to manage your career that might be considered “political”?