Embrace Office Politics

“Bodacious” means to be bold, outstanding, and remarkable. Take those attributes to work and you’re on your way to building a fulfilling, bodacious career. Does having a bodacious career sound exciting to you? It is! After starting as an $8 an hour customer service rep, I rose through the ranks of AOL, accepting four promotions and surviving over six layoffs to become the head of corporate training for 12,000 employees. Along the way I learned I needed to be bodacious to achieve the career I wanted. Out of that experience I created my “cheat sheet” of the essential Bodacious Career Builders. Here’s another: Embrace Office Politics

I try not to dwell on this too much. But had I known this sooner, this little bit of intelligence may have prevented a lot of angst and propelled my career to even higher levels: Office politics can be a good thing.

Surprised? Me, too. If I had been a little more savvy about how I could make office politics work for me, I might have avoided the glass ceiling and stayed at AOL a little longer. I might have achieved the title of Director or even VP. But no. For 10 years, I operated as though my job was to get the work done with passion and to be a team player in helping AOL realize its big vision.

In my noble naïveté, like a good foot soldier who’s not completely concentrating on where she’s going, I tripped and fell on my own sword. Was I skewered by someone else’s scheming? Was this something to blame someone else for? I don’t think so. I was just so focused on the greater mission of the work at hand that I didn’t take steps to show my boss that I was also capable of strategizing a plan for the future. You don’t need a nasty conniver to be on the losing side of a political game. Sometimes you just have to be dedicated to your work.

I finally realized that office politics is simple – relationships plus power. Now, I’m all for good relationships at work, most women are. I strove to create deliberate relationships for my Bodacious Career that could help me move forward. Sometimes this is a challenge, but all in all, it doesn’t press my ‘good girl’ buttons.

But, power, that’s another story! It’s evil, right? Well, it can be. It’s not as if we don’t have enough stories about power being abusive, harmful or strictly self-serving. Admittedly, that’s one side of power. But there’s another side of power.

Let’s be real. Every workplace is political, and the higher up the organizational chart you go, the more political the workplace gets. That’s because there’s more at stake. The higher up you go, the more things get accomplished by virtue of relationships and positioning. Bodacious Women know that the higher up you go in an organization, the more office politics you get. They also know that the question isn’t whether to play, but how.

Consider that, on a day-to-day basis, office politics can:

-Allow people at all levels of the organization to move up and around, because politics can give individuals the opportunity to get recognized.

-Help managers support their employees through acquiring the resources they need to get the job done and serve as a buffer between the employees and pressures from higher-ups.

-Help the company as a whole succeed as senior level leaders use politics to cultivate support and enthusiasm for company initiatives.

In other words “office politics” is just another way of spelling “leadership”. And that’s a good thing! Like leadership, political acumen is the artful technique of making people feel good about themselves while they are helping you. It is a form of plugged-in power that is created when we are trusted and have built a track record that says, “You can count on me.” We may use the strategies of office politics to gain a competitive advantage in our own careers, but in most cases, we gain from office politics only if what we do ultimately benefits the company, its employees, and stakeholders.

These are just a few of the positive affects of leveraging the power of office politics. Perhaps you can think of more. But, none are possible unless we accept that office politics is a fact within any organization and that it can be a good thing. Don’t let the ‘good girl’ hold you back. Embrace office politics.

BODACIOUS CAREER BUILDER: Accept office politics as a fact within any organization; embrace its positive potential.

Copyright (c) 2007 Mary Foley