Managing Politics at Work

Politics at Work

Are office politics zapping your energy? Are they restricting your work flow? Do you wish that more of your time could go to the creative side of your job rather than to managing political agendas at work?

What is a professional employee to do?

Imagine This

Imagine that you work in an environment where you cannot act unilaterally.  To be a success, you need to form effective alliances with your peers and other colleagues in order to get things done.  These alliance, however long-standing or transitory they prove to be, are vital tools to enable you to get done the things you need to get done by when you need to get them done.

Quite simply, if you cannot garner support for your plans and maintain effective relationships with your peer group and other colleagues, your ability to achieve the goals of your role will be undermined.

Your Challenges

The challenge you face is that the environment in which you work is political. You have repeated, reliable behavioural evidence that some of your peers and other colleagues act in politically motivated ways. Some colleagues say one thing, but do another.  Others let their personal animosities colour their judgement.  Others again present issues in one way when they are really about something altogether different.

All of these political operators are guilty of the same thing: they allow their workplace activity to be directed, to some extent, towards meeting their internal agenda and that agenda takes them away from working towards the goals associated with their role.


In each case, the nature of their internal agenda differs. For some of your peers it is quite simply about them wanting to gain or retain power. For others, it is more about them placing their personal preference to retain budget or headcount or whatever it is above what’s right for customers.

For even others, it is about doing things in a way which is comfortable for them personally even if this means that other important considerations like collaborating effectively with co-workers are not given sufficient weight.

But, and this is the real bugbear, if any of these things was out in the open, it would be much easier to handle.  But they are not.  In each case, the colleague guilty of acting in this way does so without being transparent and open about what they are doing.  They manage processes to enable them to retain control.

They manipulate your perceptions about what they are doing and why they are doing it.


These politicos at work present their decisions as being ‘for the good of the company‘ when they are really a covert way of them securing kudos or budget or whatever it is.  And it is this which makes your job so much more difficult.

It is this political element which is a deal breaker and which causes so much sapped energy and frustration for you and those of your other colleagues who are also largely focused on doing the best job you can.

Shifting Winds

Shifting Political WindsBut the good news is that managing politics at work does not have to be as onerous as it seems. It does not have to result in you banging your head against a brick wall day in, day out and being unable to get done the things you want to get done in the way you want to get them done.

Sure, working in a highly political environment makes it more challenging to get things done.

It requires more thought up front.  More planning and more resolve.  But it is do-able.  And the starting point is you developing and honing a set of effective political management skills.

Recipe for Success

In order to to be a success, take these suggestions to heart.

To make it all work you need to:

  • Learn how to read the political landscape, recognise which peer is trying to achieve what goal. Then listen and then make sound judgements about which political role each colleague is adopting on which issue.
  • Garner support for your plans before you start to implement them and work hard at forming and maintaining effective alliances to get things done.
  • Make sound judgements about which peer is trustworthy in regard to which issues and to what extent and which are not.
  • Get smart and effective at identifying political behaviour and managing it.
  • Understand your own strengths and struggles.
  • Know how you come across, what your values are, who they appeal to, who they differ from, and what political behaviour you use and under what circumstances you might be tempted to employ it.

It is do-able and the starting point is you.

What political behaviour do you observe in your workplace?  What impact does this behaviour have on the quality of work that is produced? What impact does it have on you?  What political behaviour do you use?  In what circumstances might you be tempted to employ it?

Bookmark Managing Politics at Work

Aryanne Oade
is Director of Oade Associates
She is a Chartered Psychologist, executive coach, workshop facilitator, author & public speaker
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Books | 00 44 (0) 7747 868 368

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