“Workplace politics” is the real politik that exists in any hierarchical structure. It represents the formal process and power structures as well as the informal power structures and “how thing really get done” structures (aka…”oh, always go to Tim for that sort of thing”).
Negative bent – It can be code for: “you have to put in your time”, “you’ve got to kiss butt to move into the next role”, “it’s about who you know”.
Positive bent – it can be code for: “There’s a right way and a smart way to advance an agenda”, “building consensus is key”.
Managing (or manipulating) the formal or informal power structures to advance your position. Example – you know that people tend to go with ideas that Stuart gets excited about. You make well-intentioned efforts (you curry favor with Stuart) to advance your agenda.
Supervisors have a specific role when it comes to the political workplace game. They are the “Aldermen and Alderwomen” advancing the agenda of their “Mayor”. They build consensus, whip or count votes, and oversee the political ground game.
To overcome workplace politics, you hire your own lobbyists and start a (hopefully authentic) ground game and PR campaign to counterbalance the workplace politics that are out of alignment with company/owner objectives.
Be careful, seek feedback and be careful who you trust. Binge the West Wing and Billions. Be careful, seek counsel and be careful who you trust.
Eli Howayeck (MBA, Kellogg School of Management), Founder and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts, is passionate about helping motivated people achieve their career, educational, or personal goals and helping businesses, large and small, overcome a variety of challenges facing their business.