How to win at office politics without hurting your co-workers

  • career advice
  • March 30, 2017
Office politics has gotten a bad rap. Bring it up in a group of people and you’ll probably get eye rolls and plenty of emotion. That’s because for many of us it means manipulation, gossip, power plays and backstabbing.
 
We’d like to change the way you think about office politics. Here’s why: it can be good for you. And everyone else.
 
Think of office politics as the rules of a culture. We must understand this culture and its people in order to contribute, be effective and thrive. Office politics involves learning the ropes and where you fit in. And you have a choice about the part you will play in this culture.

Here are five ways you can play like a pro without hurting your co-workers and damaging your character:
 

Listen and learn

There’s a learning curve those first weeks and months on the job. Pay close attention to how things get done in the office, who makes decisions and what is valued most.
 
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Look for patterns, challenges and opportunities. Identify the areas where you might add the most value. But most of all, for now, be a keen observer.
 

Get to know the people

Take a genuine interest in learning about your co-workers and what they do. It’s good to understand how they contribute, what’s most important to them and where they excel. You will become a stronger team in the process.
 
Be friendly and forthcoming on your end, but be careful not to overshare. It’s never a good idea in a professional setting.
 

Be trustworthy

Use what you learn to bring out the best in others, not as a tool for manipulation. See Renee struggling to stay on schedule with sales each month? Offer to partner on a solution.
 
Be a reliable teammate and a constructive confidante. But refrain from taking sides or getting caught up in drama. Instead, focus on getting the job done together.  
 

Be good at what you do

Be the best at what you do. Go beyond the job description and read between the lines. What would make what you do even more valuable?
 
Actions speak louder than words and people will come to respect and rely on you to get things done.
 

Put character before connections

In “My Parents Were Right—Focus on Your Character, Not Your Career,” a blog post from Warby Parker co-founder and co-CEO, Neil Blumenthal, he credits his parents with some of his best career advice:
 
“Leading a life filled with happiness and success is about character, not connections.”
 
Build connections because they make communication clearer, the product better and the customer fulfilled. Build connections because it’s personally and professionally fulfilling. Do it for the right reasons.
 
So, play office politics. Understand the system and where you fit. Understand others’ roles, who makes decisions and how to reach shared goals. You have the power to play so that everyone wins. That’s something we can all get behind.
 
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