Get Politically Savvy at Work Using These Three Tips

Danielle Doolen
2 months ago

When you think of office politics, what comes to mind? Maybe you think they’re dirty and unfair, and you’d rather keep out of them, or you get frustrated when you see people use office politics to advance their careers. But what if we told you that learning to navigate office politics is precisely the skill you need to master to score your next promotion?

It’s called being politically savvy. It’s a concept author, executive coach, and international speaker Bonnie Marcus discusses in her book “The Politics of Promotion: How High-Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead.” Bonnie has a passion for helping professional women gain the visibility and credibility they need to have a fulfilling career, and her teachings will help you do just that: get ahead.

In her book, Bonnie explains the importance of becoming politically savvy. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry. It’s not a natural trait that you are born with; it’s a skill to be learned. And the good news is that you don’t have to feel manipulative or evil when you’re using and honing your craft.

So, what does it mean to be politically savvy? It means you have a deep understanding of the dynamics of your office, from who has influence beyond their official job responsibilities to being aware of what other people need. At its core, it means you know the office politics in your workplace, and you can navigate them like a pro. 

If you think that it’s easier said than done, think again. The most important thing you have to do is simple: pay attention. You have to be aware of how your company operates and what’s going on in your organization, within your job responsibilities and beyond. 

If you’re looking to move up in your organization, you have to understand that you can’t do it alone. You need to build relationships with key players and influencers that will advocate for you and your abilities. Work with your eyes and ears open. 

According to Bonnie Marcus, if you want to be politically savvy, you need to pay attention to these three things.

The Rules

When you think of office politics, this is likely what comes to mind. It’s not so much the written rules, like what’s in the employee handbook, but the unwritten rules. Understanding the unwritten rules of your team and company will provide you invaluable information.

For example, what your company’s expectations are for answering emails outside of working hours could differ from what your boss actually expects. Were you told not to worry about checking your email on the weekends, but come Monday, you find out that you missed out on an entire email exchange about an important project. These are essential nuggets of information because the first time you miss that email, it may not be a big deal. But if this continues to happen, you may be positioning yourself as less valuable than your coworkers simply because you’re not responsive.

Power and Influence

Think about who has power and influence in your organization. Who’s responsible for making key decisions? Keep in mind that title doesn’t always correlate with power. Those with lesser job titles may have more influence than a top-level manager. Find the people within your company that your coworkers turn to for advice and who influence key decisions, like promotions. It may be your boss or your boss’s boss or someone in a completely different department. Also, this sphere of influence will likely shift throughout your time at a company—just another important reason to always stay observant and aware.

Once you know who the key players are, get in front of them. Network. Network. Network. Building and nurturing relationships with people that understand your value and will advocate for you and your career progression will pay dividends when it comes to annual review time.

The Culture

Pay close attention to the culture of your organization. What are the workplace values? Is there gender bias in your company or industry? Do women receive the same opportunities and support as men? Is the company conservative, liberal, innovative, or archaic? Having a grasp on the ethos of an organization will serve to your advantage when you’re trying to figure out how to handle a situation.

When you keep these three areas of your organization front of mind, you can develop strategies to navigate the political climate of your company while building a strong network of advocates. Understanding office politics is essential to your career and your career success. Once you accept that they are a natural part of the professional world, you’ll be able to master them and become politically savvy.

For more tips on how to navigate office politics to level up your career, we highly recommend checking out Bonnie Marcus’ book “The Politics of Promotion: How High-Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead.” It takes a deep dive into the political dynamics of an organization, and it provides clear instructions for women who want to utilize relationships with influential people in their company to get that next promotion. Get your copy at Amazon.

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