As we mature we come to understand Life is not always fair. The spoils of competition may be awarded to the most popular, most well-connected, or most well-funded, regardless of whom is more deserving.
In a perfect world, what we earn would reflect the effort, integrity, and intentions we put into our work. But politicking—amassing and asserting one’s influence through social networking to position oneself closer to power—can determine upward mobility as much, or more, than virtue and value. Since office politics can play a substantial role in the corporate climb, it’s essential to play to win.
1. Give credit where credit’s due. Few things will build resentment from your colleagues faster than not acknowledging their contributions. Sharing credit doesn’t cost you a thing, but will pay huge dividends in gratitude and respect. Collaboration is critical to success, so learn how to work with others in a way that recognizes the value and effort each member brings to the table.
2. Be a person of your word. If you say you will do something, be like a mailman…and deliver! Have it done right and on-time. This builds trust; people will reciprocate by having your back when you need them.
3. Create a win-win when possible. One way to ensure your office mates will be there for you in a pinch, is to consistently make working together mutually beneficial. It may not be possible in every situation, but if you make a sincere effort, people will be receptive to working with you.
4. Don’t gossip. When someone comes to you with all the dirt, keep your mouth shut. They’re doing the same thing about you to everyone else. The best way to stay clean when someone is slinging mud is to change the subject, or stay silent and mutter something about needing to meet a tight deadline. Whatever you do, avoid taking sides. Choose the wrong side in a civil war and you can end up taking a bullet on the battlefield.
5. CYA (Cover your @$$). Keep records of emails, voicemails, and other documentation if you are involved in a situation you suspect might come back to bite you.
6. Neutralize toxic people. A few rules for detoxing from people who force their issues on everyone they come into contact with: Don’t take things personally, distance yourself, and don’t try and rationalize with them because they do things based on illogical motives. Remember, they are playing out their own issues and their behavior has nothing to do with you, so don’t get trapped in their web of crazy. Keep interactions to short small talk and make every excuse to avoid working together on projects or teams.
7. Be helpful. Reciprocity makes the world go round. If you have the time and resources, do a favor when you can. But be mindful of co-workers always eager to receive, but never to give. Prioritize your time and effort for those that appreciate it and will return the courtesy.
8. Show some interest in your co-workers as people. You don’t have to jump on board for every Happy Hour invite, or buy cookies from every parent hocking it at the office, but taking a genuine interest in your co-worker as a real person develops an authentic bond. Simple gestures like shooting off a silly happy birthday GIF, and asking if you can bring them back a burrito from lunch when they’re stuck at their desk, will build a genuine rapport.
9. Be slow to snap, and quick to smile. In the workplace some circumstances will be out of your control; but the three things you always have control over are: your reactions, your efforts, and your attitude. When one of those emails that sends your blood pressure to near stroke levels ends up in your inbox, don’t fire off a reply in an emotional frenzy. Wait until you’re relaxed, then be emotionally neutral and strategic about your response.On the flip side of the pancake, be as easy going and approachable as you. People can feel when you make a genuine effort to understand and help. They will feel comfortable coming to you with a question if they know they won’t be assaulted with an eye roll, or condescending tone. People gravitate to a calming, uplifting, personality in the office. Your energy will make them feel more at ease and confident.
10. Be Courteous of People’s Time. Successful people take offense to their time being wasted. Being punctual and prepared is not only smart business, but is a sign of competency and respect. Likewise, showing up late and not being ready to add value means you become a liability instead of a in-demand collaborator.
Whether you’re at the bottom trying to locate a foothold to climb, or at the top and looking to stay there, social diplomacy is key to advancement and longevity. Likability has a part to play in who gets passed over, and who gets a push up. HR may call it “cultural fit” or “leadership ability”, but it’s often code for emotional intelligence. If you know the rules of the game and how to play, you can maneuver successfully to where you want to be without sacrificing your ethics or values.