The only possible exception is if the person who says it is currently employed as a company parking lot attendant.
You can no easier choose not to be involved in office politics than you can choose not to breathe office air – again with possible exception of the parking lot attendant.
A dirty business
That’s because business is politics. Look at it this way: getting hired is a function of interviewers ‘voting’ for you. Receiving raises is like being ‘re-elected.’ As you are promoted into ‘higher office’, you rely more on your ‘constituents’ to support you. ‘Lobbyists’ are always trying to influence you too, except that in business, you call them ‘vendors’.
Just like the political parties, you form alliances with people who share your values and priorities. You help them gain support for the projects that they need to remain popular with their constituents, and they, in turn, arrange for you to take free golf trips to Hawaii.
Similarly, what works in politics works in business. Research at Columbia University showed that raises and promotions are more likely to be based on your charisma than your intelligence or professional qualifications.
This is why the guy you elected to city council wasn’t on the Nobel Prize short list and why your CEO’s most prominent quality is an ability to smile uninterrupted for up to four hours.
The ironic thing is that many people in business, desperate for political skills, have no idea where to start. So here are some tips to help you scale the slippery slope to the top.
Pressing the flesh
First off, determine who has the real power in your organisation and curry their favour. Amateurs will tend think it’s the CEO, but this isn’t the case. I worked for a company once where the most powerful and influential people were executives’ PAs. They controlled access to executives, could drop a helpful or damning word and could single-handedly get you transferred to Greenland.
In another company, the most powerful person was a mid-level guy in IT who had Star Trek dolls in his office. If he liked you, your life would be easy. If he disliked you, porn sites would pop up on your laptop during critical presentations. I bought him a video-game console and he programmed the payroll system to pay me for eternity.
Make sure you identify the most critical issues to your organisation and stay away from them. My state is drowning in red ink, the education system is appalling and toxic waste spews out of water fountains. So what has my state legislature done? They outlawed garden gnomes. There is an important lesson here. Stay away from all volatile issues. Is the implementation of a new computer system vital to your organisation? Lead a campaign to get the office walls carpeted.
Everything to everybody
Use polling. Politicians do polling to help them learn what their most fundamental personal beliefs should be. You don’t have that luxury at work but if you listen carefully to what people are saying, you can present yourself in such a way as to appear to represent their likes and dislikes. Because people are usually not in agreement on anything, you should develop strong opinions on all sides of an issue to create the illusion of genuineness.
Get a mentor. Every successful politician has a mentor and so should you. Actually, you should be mentor-polygamous and have a lot of them. The trick to having a mentor is to appear to be respectful of their judgment while hoping they have the poor judgment to have anything to do with an unfaithful protégé like you.
That’s about it. I wish you well on your rise to the top and don’t forget me when you get there. Maybe you can get me home from Greenland.