Introvert Guide to Positive Office Politics
Isn’t positive office politics an oxymoron? Especially for an introvert?
Office politics, like many things has its positive and negative sides. We notice the negative, which is disgusting and dysfunctional. It often harms or abuses others in the process and for the rest of us; we try to avoid the fallout.
What we tend to not notice is the positive office politics that does take place, mostly because we don’t recognize it for what it is. When it works well, it makes a group efficient, productive and satisfied.
To sort this out, you first need to understand the definition of office politics.
Office Politics Definition: In its simplest form, office politics is about building relationships in order to achieve some kind of end result. It’s the dynamics between people who work together that determines such things as support, engagement and advantages to the support of each person’s goals. It’s the basis of decision making. It’s how things are done anytime you have a group of people working on something. (which can include your neighborhood association, church, nonprofits and the list goes on)
As you can see, that is a fairly neutral concept neither positive nor negative. What leans the needle in one direction or the other is the action of the players (people).
With that in mind, how can an introvert wage positive office politics and not lose their soul or self-respect in the process? Consider this:
Form mutually beneficial relationships – Let’s face it, we form relationships for selfish reasons, even if it is simply because we like the other person. It’s time for you to think more strategically. Who in the organization is in a position of influence or power? Who are the stars? These are good people to hang out with. Success rubs off. BUT, what’s in it for them? What do you bring to the party? Figure it out and then focus on that as you form these strategic relationships.
Manage up – We hear about this but don’t often understand it. Spend time observing your boss and their boss. Figure out what’s important. Once you do, engage them in conversations and information exchanges where their interests and your job intersect. Don’t assume upper management knows anything about what you do or how you contribute – so, tell them! Adapt their priorities and keep them updated. It’s hard to not totally love and support someone who has your back as a boss.
Be clear about your goals – You must have a career goal in mind for any of this to make sense. Otherwise, you’re just doing a job with no real “end-state”. Armed with that goal clarity, share your destination with those bosses. Strangely enough, when people don’t advocate for themselves, the assumption is you’re happier than a clam where you are.
Influence decisions – This is where introverts really can shine. We prefer to form our relationships one at a time. While you’re busy chatting up your various strategic relationships, engage them and influence their thinking towards support of your needs. Obviously, you are there to reciprocate. Reciprocity is a highly influential action and you want to plan to do it often.
Read the system – As an introvert, it’s very easy to hunker down and focus on the task at hand. It can be too easy to ignore what is going on around you with all of that focus. At the drop of a hat, someone can fall into or out of favor and you need to pay attention. There are reasons for this type of shift and you not only need to be aware of it so you can also adjust your strategy but you need to learn from it. This should inform your behavior going forward.
It’s all about reciprocity – If you haven’t caught on by now, Office Politics is all about the relationships and what each person gets from another person – that serves their goals or agenda.
You can choose to be “above” office politics and when you do, you put your future at peril. I suggest you pick waging Positive Office Politics.
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