Executive Coaching & Office Politics

Regardless of the company that you work for, one of the challenges that many executive coaching clients face is dealing with office politics.  The overall atmosphere and level of politics can vary greatly.  As an executive, it’s crucial to know how to survive and even thrive regardless of the office politic dynamics in your company.  The good news is there are ways to work around it and to even make it work for you.  So before you allow it to frustrate you, take a step back and think about what you want to do.

Use your eyes and ears:  become aware of and pay attention to the general climate in the office.  Is it friendly and open or do people hide out in their offices?  Especially if you’re new to the company, it’s a good idea to be watchful of your surroundings.  You can learn a lot.

Seek out the successful individuals.  While it’s always good to forge alliances with people at all levels, be particularly mindful of the movers and shakers around you.  Go out of your way to know these people.  Find out what it is about them that makes them so successful.  What techniques do they employ that work well?  Mimic what they do and institute them into your daily routine.

Do the thing that will get you recognized as a serious worker.  This does not mean you necessarily have to work until all hours of the night every day.  If you pitch in on a project and are seen staying late once in a while, it probably couldn’t hurt you.  Conversely, avoid doing the things that will be frowned upon. These should be pretty obvious.  To begin with, be careful of water cooler conversation.  It’s one thing to rehash last night’s episode of American Idol or CSI, however it’s completely different to bash a coworker for their appearance, faults, or overall behavior.  Plus, there should be no debate when it comes to knocking someone’s religious beliefs or sexual orientation.  At the very least these things can get you fired.  But be careful because they can also get you sued.

Remain neutral.  Sometimes even the people you want to impress make incriminating comments about a project, coworker, or company directive.  To voice the wrong opinion can be detrimental to your reputation.  You should be cautioned that this may also be a test to see your reaction or what you’ll say.  The best thing to do is say as little as possible.  Try not to agree or disagree.  Wait for a pause in the conversation and change the topic to something less politically-charged.

Another thing to avoid doing is boss-bashing.  Everyone has a shot at a run-in with their supervisor and most likely you will not be left out.  How you choose to respond to the situation can either make or break you.  Your best bet is to keep your mouth shut rather than lambaste your boss to others.  Being labeled for negativity is something that can hold you back professionally.  If there’s an issue with your boss your best bet is to speak directly to them first.  If that doesn’t work, then seek out your HR representative to work out a proper resolution.

Don’t act out.  In addition to keeping your mouth shut about your boss and coworkers, be sure to mind your P’s and Q’s at company functions.  Use these opportunities to forge those alliances!  Parties and receptions are great opportunities to rub elbows with the upper echelon and make yourself known.  These events should not be used to slam back the beers with your buddies.  Save that for happy hour on Friday night.  Instead, have a cocktail if you must, but the safest way to go is with soft drinks.  Stories of people that drink too much and fall all over themselves are not quickly forgotten in the office.  These are the kinds of stories that continue to rear their ugly heads long after the festivities are over.

As long as you keep yourself free and clear from these kinds of mishaps you’ll be on the right path to making a good name for yourself at the office.  However, you need to be mindful of more than just your actions.  Succeeding in office politics is largely about whom you align yourself with.  That said, it’s important to choose your friends wisely.  Associate yourself with the people that don’t cause controversy.  Although you can’t judge a book by its cover, people in business do.  It may not accurately reflect who you are, but it can certainly overshadow your achievements and keep you from getting that promotion you want.  Keep your friends outside of the office and steer clear of the party animal; the one that does get drunk at the yearly holiday party.

All in all, if you employ common sense you’ll be able to figure these things out.  People normally cringe when they hear the words office politics, but in truth it’s completely manageable.  Be smart in your words and deeds and eventually you’ll see where you can fit in and how you can use the environment to your advantage.  By following these suggestions, you’ll be on the right track to professional superstardom.


New York Executive Coaching