When I started my new position, I really didn’t know what I was in for. Really! I had been working independently as a real estate agent and basically could make my own rules about my business. I was so excited to start my new opportunity, it was more money, more benefits and a better schedule. Before, I’d be working evenings or even going days between clients. There was no consistency. I thought working for a company would be better. I didn’t know the secrets to winning at office politics.
But the thing about working independently is that there is very little office politics! Almost none! It was glorious. I didn’t have to ask for too much permission and as long as I worked within the brokerage’s rules and made money, no one bothered me.
So moving to an organization that had 500+ employees and too many departments, I quickly realized that I was in over my head when it came to office politics. So much red tape, so much bureaucracy. I couldn’t make a decision without the person ahead of me giving the go ahead. I didn’t know who could get the things I needed for my role and I certainly didn’t know how the secrets of how to use office politics for winning. At the time I felt like I knew so much about my industry and my job. I could do this job and shine like any other position I had.
Nope. I was not prepared for the level of politics that the position required. I didn’t know how to create boundaries between me and my superiors when I felt like my toes were being stepped on or I was being taken advantage of. I didn’t know how to make sure I would get credit for the work I was doing. I didn’t now how to be my own advocate.
And it cost me. When the time came for promotions to be considered, I wasn’t even on the table. It wasn’t until after the role had been hired was my value as an employee recognized.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t care enough about the office politics, but in ways it cost me.
If you’re going to do extra work to be noticed, the politics game is a must. Otherwise why go above and beyond and not get the right credit?
Here are some lessons I learned to give you the secrets on winning at office politics:
Makes sure to understand everyone’s role and scope of work.
The workplace is treacherous and one of the first lessons you learn is how not to step on people’s toes. When you make assumptions or take on someone else’s role, even unwittingly, you can make people upset. Don’t be like my colleague John who assumes we can just give away free rent, when it’s only billing that can apply those kind of charges. Now John has to smooth things over with billing to get them to offer something he wasn’t supposed to offer.
I like to make a chart to remember what everybody does. There’s Lisa in billing that handles all the funds from clients. There’s Nicole in renewals that returns the security deposit. I should reach out to Eric in treasury when we receive wires. All of these people work with issues related to money and funds, but imagine how annoyed these people would be if I referred client’s to them for the wrong issues or if I gave out wrong information related to their roles, and they needed to clean the mess?
We have numerous departments and roles in my company. You have to reach out to person X if you need help with Y or person B if you need help with A.
Knowing people’s roles and functions can help you build relationships in the workplace and become a more efficient employee.
When you take part in a project make sure you are named as a collaborator
The only person looking out for you is you.
Rule #1. Just because you’re chummy with your coworker doesn’t mean they will give you the recognition you deserve. Unless you can see every email they send and attend every meeting they go to, then you can’t know.
The only way you can be sure to be getting the credit for the work you do is to make it VERY clear you were included.
That’s by sending emails and making a statement. It can be as simple as:
“Hi Dom, I just wanted to let you know that person X allowed me to be part of this project and I did A, B, and C. I really enjoyed taking part in this exercise. Let me know if there are any more projects like this, I’d love to take part!”
It’s just about putting your foot in the door and letting the people who are decision-makers know what you’re capable of doing and that you are open to more.
Make nice and be a team player
This one is the easiest. Don’t try to play politics by throwing other people under the bus. First, it’s not nice, and second, you never know when it’ll backfire.
My new manager N had sent an email crudely critiquing one of the marketing strategies. He had sent it to our Director, who didn’t really even bother reading it, so forwarded it to the Marketing Director. Well, N got a scathing email back from the Marketing Director basically telling him he has no idea what he’s talking about. Apparently N didn’t expect his email to get around.
You never know when you’ll need another person’s help in an organization. So why burn bridges? What you need to do is build connections so that when you need a favor, it’s there for you.
N has already burned bridges with our Assistant Director, Marketing Director and Renewals Manager.
Being nice doesn’t have to mean you’re a doormat, it just helps keep you from being on other people’s shit-list.
Attend the company events
Everyone goes to the summer outing and the holiday party. These events are a fun time to unwind, relax and kind of commiserate with your colleagues.
It’s also an opportunity to bump shoulders with your higher ups and pick their brains. We have different offices in the company, so it’s also a way for me to actually meet people I’ve never seen but have emailed with a billion times over for projects.
Overall, it’s a great way to show face and make sure the right people can put the correct face to your name when talking about accomplishments and performance.
Work the numbers
Every job has it’s own metrics in terms of measuring an employee’s level of performance.
This was the hardest for me to learn. I figured if I just did my work the numbers would reflect my efforts. I really didn’t even take the time to learn EXACTLY how my performance was being measured.
The result? My performance was not being completely represented by the numbers.
Upper Management doesn’t care about getting to know each and every individual employee. Or working on their strengths and weaknesses. They SAY they want to do that. But Upper Management is made up of people, who, at the end of the day, want to just get the job done and done quickly. In order to consider individual performance, at my company, metrics are KING.
Whether the numbers and metrics are right 100% depends on you and making sure you’re getting the credit for the work you do and being recognized.
Some people go as far as working the numbers in such a way that it starts to be very little work to look high performance. Those people know how to PLAY THE GAME.
Get other people to say good things about you
My Asst. Director is good at this. Almost shameless about it too. She MUST get credit for her contribution at work. She kind of needs it since she struggles to grasp the entire scope of her work.
She will straight up ask people to mention her contributions in meetings, while mentioning all the times she talked you up to the higher ups and stoking your ego. She’s asked me! I don’t mind saying good things about other people because that just means you’re in alliance and they’re more likely to say good things about you.
You also want your work to be so good that other departments will know you and mention that you do “good work” or that you’re “very knowledgeable.”
It’s through the mouths of other people that you build a reputation, whether it be good or bad.
Brag and get credit for your accomplishments
This is kind of like getting other people to say good things about you except it’s just you saying good things about yourself.
I used to think that talking yourself up and bragging was in bad taste in the workplace but over time it’s become more normal for me.
Work is just too busy! Who’s going to really remember who did what, who set what record, what your most recent accomplishment was, other than you? It’s your job to make it known and to advocate for yourself. No one’s going to do it for you.
Even more, if you stay quiet about your accomplishments and people notice, it might be mistaken for a lack of confidence rather than humbleness.
I hope these secrets for winning at office politics helps you find the confidence to make sure your contributions to your company are noticed. These were hard lessons for me but I hope they help you along your way to success.
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