Office Politics is Not a Work Hack

If you’ve got a problem, there’s usually 1000 different ways to tackle it, and if you’re a certain kind of person, you look online to find a smarter, faster way. A life hack, if you will. It seems like these tips have taken over our life (just look at Pinterest.) And so, we think that for everything, there must be a shortcut.


We’ve all seen certain people rise in a company where their talents were, “well hidden,” or perhaps their greatest talent was simply charming the right people, or consistently tooting their own horn (whether they were present when the orchestra is practising is another matter entirely.)


It’s easy to assume based on this evidence that there may be an easier way to get what you want in the workplace; all you need to do is work “smarter” and schmooze harder. A a recent survey by Robert Half International found that nearly 60% of respondents agreed that participation in office politics was at least “somewhat necessary” to get ahead.


But the reality is that more times than not, purely political workers reach an end of their tether much quicker. Without a strong work ethic, results, and a dedication to teamwork, the political track reaches a quicker end.


Marie from Toronto says, “I once worked with a woman who came to our team and thought she was going to whip the people under her into shape, while showing off her “power” to the Executive team. She ended up getting caught in a pretty big lie after one of her subordinates complained directly to HR. She was gone within the month.”


And it seems that among coworkers, the purely political actually have fewer allies on teams.


John from Oakville describes a particularly contentious situation: “I used to have a boss who would call at all hours of the day demanding certain things from our team, because she had already promised them to her boss, without understanding the time it took to deliver complex reporting. I always delivered exactly what was asked, and nothing more, because I wasn’t going to help someone who had no respect for us.”


How can you remain apolitical, but still make sure you move up? Sarah Paul, Director of Human Resources at Govan Brown Construction Managers has some tips for how to bypass the politics at your office:


“If you want to get ahead at work, focus instead, on being an invaluable contributor to the organization.   Be a top performer in your job, set a strong example for others and spot opportunities to make the company a better place to work.  Build your credibility and influence by interacting with people in a transparent and genuine manner.  Give others credit where it is due, and take personal accountability for mistakes.”


As with all things in life with a potentially big reward, there is no substitute for doing your best and staying out of the fray.


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