Office policy: survival of the Savvy
There is one skill that everyone at work wants to be better off, but it is not taught in MBA courses: office politics. Stories of political sabotage, power games and lawn wars are part of the history of every organization. Nevertheless, political competence is the one skill that everyone wants more of – but nobody admits it. It is about knowing how to map the political terrain and to bring others to your side, as well as to lead coalitions, “says Prof. Samuel B. Bacharach, who wrote” Getting Them On Your Side “in 2005. Sometimes these ideas fail because the leaders who propose them cannot get support from key people.
Define political skills
It is naive to say that all office policies are destructive and unethical. When you define politics so narrowly and negatively, you overlook the value of political awareness and skill. Combining political wisdom with ethics and integrity can lead to positive results for you, your team and your company. If you define politics only negatively, you are naively sub-political, which makes you vulnerable to overly political, self-serving individuals.
Three phases of political competence
Political competence can be developed ethically and fundamentally with this three-phase process:
1. Map your political terrain
First, identify all those involved – everyone who is interested in your idea or would be affected – and how they will react. Some resistance is inevitable. They have to anticipate others’ reactions, identify allies and resistors, analyze their goals and understand their agendas.
2. Get others on your side
Build your coalition – a politically mobilized group dedicated to implementing your idea because it brings valuable benefits. How do you get support? You have to be credible. You communicate credibility by informing potential allies and adversaries of your expertise, demonstrating personal integrity, and showing that you have access to important people and information. You need to explain your position through informal conversations, meetings, and office drop-ins.
3. Make things happen
You must win the buy-in of others by making it clear that there is a gain for supporting your efforts and disadvantages for not joining your coalition. Show how implementing your idea eases your workload, increases your visibility within the organization, or helps you reduce costs in your unit. Once you’ve convinced people to join your coalition, you’ve created a foundation that legitimizes your idea. The coalition members will then use their networks to evangelize for you. Mastering only certain parts of the three identified phases is unsuccessful. Some people sabotage themselves by not completing all three phases when trying to generate and implement changes.
Risk reduction through politics
There are risks with every course of action you take. Sometimes you have incomplete or insufficient information when making a decision. Building a coalition through dialogue with its members brings valuable information to the surface. You are open to criticism and politically vulnerable when you make a decision. Politically competent leaders reduce the risk by getting as many people as possible on their side. Building a coalition is a search process for the best solution. If you form a coalition, bring people together and solidify / expand your base, you will be less prone to criticism. It is more difficult to attack a leader who has built a large support base across the organization.