Office Politics Play a Role in Career Advancement, Most Workers Say

Posted February 24, 2012 by

Are office politics really necessary to move up the corporate ladder?

Whether you’re running for office or just working in one, it pays to be a good politician, a new Robert Half survey suggests. More than half (56 percent) of workers interviewed said involvement in office politics is at least somewhat necessary to get ahead.

Workers were asked, “In your opinion, what effect, if any, does involvement in office politics have on one’s career?” Their responses:
Very necessary to get ahead 15%
Somewhat necessary to get ahead 41%
Not at all necessary to get ahead 42%
Don’t know/no answer 2%

“There is some degree of politics at play in virtually every organization,” said Max Messmer, Chairman and CEO of Robert Half International and author of Managing Your Career For Dummies®, 2nd Edition. “The savviest professionals practice workplace diplomacy. They remain attuned to political undercurrents but don’t allow themselves to get pulled into situations that could compromise their working relationships or reputation.”

Remember these six tips for navigating office politics:

  1. Build a broad coalition of support. In an effort to impress your company’s power players, don’t overlook those at the grassroots level. Lobby for the respect and trust of all your colleagues. Forge strong alliances by sharing credit for successes and delivering on your promises. You never know whose endorsement or vote of confidence could benefit your career in the future.
  2. Avoid smear campaigns. Gossiping or outright mudslinging is only guaranteed to damage one person’s credibility: yours. When you’re upset or frustrated, wait until after you’ve calmed down to express your concerns. Be direct but tactful, focusing on facts rather than feelings.
  3. Stay true to your values. It’s an unfortunate truth that there are those who’ll do anything to “win,” but character and credibility count. You don’t need to play underhanded games to rise through the ranks.
  4. Connect with your constituencies. Smart candidates tailor their message and approach to the audience. Apply the same tactic to your coworkers; observe their unique work styles, priorities and communication preferences — and be willing to adapt your approach.
  5. Play by the rules. Seemingly minor slipups can have big implications on the campaign trail and at work. Avoid sticky situations by paying close attention to office protocol at your firm. If you take a misstep, make amends quickly.
  6. Dodge controversy. Given that 2012 is a big election year, water cooler chitchat will inevitably veer toward the polarizing topic of politics. Proceed with caution (or politely bow out completely). Getting into heated debates about non-work issues can generate unnecessary ill will.
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