It's a safe prediction that every one of us, some time during our business career, will announce, "I love my work, it's the office politics I can't stand."
Maybe you've already grumbled it five times this week alone.
But business is a social process; it involves people interacting with one another. Someone wants to sell you something, someone else wants to get promoted or, quite frequently, wants your job.
This never-ending process of getting things done is also called politics. It's how decisions are made. And it's a necessary part of business.
So, to succeed in business, do you have to play office politics? Can you get ahead without resorting to endless maneuvering and always watching your backside?
The answer is, of course, you can but you've got stick to some tried-and-true rules.
It's the petty office politics you want to avoid. Major decisions that affect your company's future require lots of politics, as they should. In fact, there's nothing healthier than an out-in-the-open, straight-up debate about important issues. It's when things get petty (and personal) that make you want to get off at the next stop.
First Big Rule: Never discuss politics. The best way to avoid saying something that gets you into trouble is not to say anything. When you feel yourself getting involved in a petty political issue, keep quiet. Never rail against it, pontificate or claim you're "taking the high road." Just don't get involved. Period.
Second Big Rule: Don't bad-mouth rivals. Never say anything personally derogatory about anyone, especially someone who is or might be perceived as your rival. It's all right to "express concern" or even "surprise" at a competitor's actions or behavior, but don't feel you need to have a "sound bite" ready to put them in their place. Practice diplomacy, which is a form of politics that is never petty.
Third Big Rule: Find honest ways to praise everyone, even co-workers whom you dislike. Look for something that's praiseworthy (look hard, you'll find something) and sincerely acknowledge those positive attributes; don't be corny or condescending or it will come back to haunt you.
Fourth (and last) Big Rule: Be honest with yourself. Not every setback in your business career will be attributed to office politics (although it will be if you're caught playing petty politics). Blaming political intrigue for your misfortune may make you feel better, but it doesn't accomplish anything in the long run. Some things just aren't meant to be. Get over it and move on. Learn from your mistakes, don't let them happen again and work harder at setting yourself up for success instead of avoiding failure.