How to make office politics work for you

Updated: 2012-03-27 08:05

(China Daily)

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How to make office politics work for you

You've landed your dream job and started work. Your boss seems friendly and approachable and your colleagues look like they are ready to help you out anytime. Before long, you begin to hear stories about certain people in the office and you're not sure how to react. Then you notice the various cliques that formed way before your arrival.

So how do you make office politics work for you and not against you?

First, observe the organization and understand the office culture. This will take a while but it is a worthy investment of your time. Try to figure out the following questions: How are decisions made? What is valued the most? It will help you to understand how things get done in your organization.

Second, build relationships. Trust and respect are important aspects of any relationship. This works both ways. By trusting and respecting someone you will need to be trustworthy and respectful as well.

One can practice good politics by being friendly to everyone but not aligning yourself to a particular group. It is also beneficial to be part of multiple networks. Make an effort to know people outside your department.

Third, listening skills are imperative. People like others who listen. It is the best way to get to know a person, and to let them know that you are interested in their lives. When others share interesting stories, feel free to do the same - it encourages communication and is what building relationships is all about. Of course, you do not need to go overboard and spill your entire life story but it will be nice if your colleague talks about a great Japanese restaurant that you have been to and you provide your own input.

Moreover, governing your own behavior is essential. Be mindful of your words and actions and do your best to be amiable with everyone. Stories can get out of hand, especially if they have been circulated around the office. The best way to clarify information is from the party himself. Being impartial is a key. Try not to get sucked into arguments, especially those that will force you to pick a side. It is best to be neutral about the situation and avoid speaking up for either party unless there are moral implications involved and therefore a clear side to choose.

Maintain your integrity by remembering the organization's interests. This may seem glaringly obvious but one mistake can lead to irrevocable consequences. If you are engaging in an outside project, ask yourself at every step if you are compromising the company's interests at all. If in doubt, stop immediately. Strive to be beyond reproach at all times.

Above all, understand that office politics are part and parcel of an office environment. While a job is important, don't allow the politics in your office to change who you are.

(Contact for questions and career advice.)

Advice given by Rachel Wang, manager of the engineering division at Robert Walters Suzhou.

(China Daily 03/27/2012 page14)