By: Arizona Advertising Guild

Regardless of where you work, be it an ad agency, government office or religious establishment, office politics can play a key role in day-to-day life. And we aren’t just talking about avoiding office gossip or trying to fit in with the “cool” staff members. They can also include things like getting more face time with your boss or being recognized for the countless hours of work you put in on the marketing agency’s latest client acquisition. Consider the following strategies as you navigate these sometimes-sticky situations.

Break Out of Your Shell

People often think it’s best to avoid office politics altogether. They keep their heads down, get their work done and focus only on the project at hand. In theory, this should keep you safe from any office drama but in reality  could hurt your career. No matter how great your output, if you don’t make yourself known in the right circles, your efforts may go unnoticed.

Don’t be afraid to speak up. This doesn’t mean gloating about how great you are around the office. Simple things like respectfully voicing an opinion in team meetings and sharing your expertise among clients can show your value to the leadership team. Also, be open to brainstorming with teammates to help elevate their projects. Being individually successful is good but creating team success can elevate the caliber of your company, making you a key asset to the business. Using this tactic will help you build respect among your coworkers and get your manager to take notice.

Build a Network

Having 500-plus connections on LinkedIn does not qualify as a quality network – this isn’t a popularity contest. To be successful, you need a network of people who are willing to advocate on your behalf. This shouldn’t be done in a way that tears others down but, instead, builds you up. How do you create this type of network in the workplace?

  1. Build quality connections by showing a genuine interest in the people you work with
  2. Understand the emotional state of your coworkers and respond appropriately (i.e., don’t be disruptive when your coworkers are clearly on deadline)
  3. Listen and offer a helping hand when needed
  4. Understand when to say no ­– there’s no benefit in going above and beyond for a coworker who isn’t willing to do the same for you
  5. After you have taken the time to foster this relationship, ask for people to connect with you and recommend your skills on LinkedIn

While the last point may seem selfish, in business, and in life, it’s crucial to understand where to spend your time and energy. You are valuable and should build a network of people who know and respect that value.

Play the Game

The reality is that, at some point, you’re going to have to play the game. Make sure the decision makers within your company know who you are. Say “hi” to them and ask them how their day is going when you see them. Also, understand who maybe doesn’t have a high-level title but has influence with those who do. When you truly understand the “organization chart,” you can be more aware of your actions and the way you’re portraying yourself to upper management.

Also remember that another key to playing the game is remaining genuine in your efforts. If you’re acting one way around a coworker and another way when management enters the room, it could potentially cause resentment among your teammates and the time you spent building a network with them will go to waste.

If At First You Don’t Succeed …

Workplace politics are a tricky business. Eventually you will make a mistake and that’s okay. When that happens, remember to be genuine in who you are, admit fault when needed and build bridges instead of burning them. Combine this formula with the insights listed above and you should have the tools needed to successfully navigate the murky waters of office politics.

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