Becoming Politically Adept In An Organization

Forget, for a moment, the ethics of politicking and any negative impressions you might have of people who engage in organizational politics. If you want to be more politically adept in your organization, follow these eight suggestions:

Frame arguments in terms of organizational goals. Effective politicking requires camouflaging your self-interest. No matter that your objective is self-serving; all the arguments you marshal in support of it must be farmed in terms of the benefits that will accrue to the organization. People whose actions appear to blatantly further their own interests at the expenses of the organization are almost universally denounce, are likely to lose influence and often suffer the ultimate penalty of being expelled from the organization.

Develop the right image: If you know your organization’s culture, you understand what the organization wants and values from its employee – in terms of dress, associates to cultivate and those to avoid, whether to appear to be risk taker or risk aversive, the preferred leadership style, the importance placed on getting along well with others, and so forth. Then you are equipped to project the appropriate image. Because the assessment of your performance isn’t always a fully objective process, you need to pay attention to style as well as substance.

Gain control of organizational resources: The control of organizational resources that are scarce and important is a source of power. Knowledge and expertise are particularly effective resources to control. They make you more valuable to the organization and, therefore more likely to gain security, advancement, and a receptive audience for our ideas.

Make yourself appear indispensable: Because we’re dealing with appearances rather than objectives facts, you can enhance your power by appearing to be indispensable. You don’t really have to be indispensable as long as key people in the organization believe that you are. If the organization’s prime decision makers believe there is no ready substitute for what you are giving the organization, they are likely to go to great lengths to ensure that your desires are satisfied.

Be visible: If you a job that brings your accomplishments to the attention of others, that’s great. However, if you don’t have such a job, you’ll want to find ways to let others in the organization know what you’re doing by highlighting successes in routine reports, having satisfied customers relay their appreciation to senior executives, being seen at social functions, being active in your professional associations, and developing powerful allies who speak positively about your accomplishments. Of course, the skilled politician actively and successfully lobbies to get the projects that will increase his or her visibility.

Develop powerful allies: It helps to have powerful people on your side. Cultivate contacts with potentially influences people above you, at your own level and in the lower ranks. These allies often can provide you with information that’s otherwise not readily available. In addition, there will be times when decisions will be made in favor of those with the greatest support. Having powerful allies can provide you with a coalition of support if and when you need it.

Avoid “tainted” members. In almost every organization, there are fringe members whose status is questionable. Their performance and/or loyalty are suspect. Keep your distance from such individuals. Given the reality that effectiveness has a large subjective component; your own effectiveness might be called into question if you’re perceived as being too closely associated with tainted members.

Support your boss: Your immediate future is in the hands of your current boss. Because he or she evaluates your performance, you’ll typically want to do whatever is necessary to have your boss on your side. You should make every effort to help your boss succeed, make her look good, support her if she under siege, and spend the time to find out the criteria she will use to assess your effectiveness. Don’t undermine your boss. And don’t speak negatively of her to others.