How to play the office politics game (and win)

By Robert Half on 8 August 2017

Whether you work for a major accounting firm or lead a small business, there’s likely some degree of office politics within your company. Most organisations are not immune to political issues, especially small businesses with few employees, where office politics can have a big impact.

Understanding your company’s political landscape can be an important step in your accounting and finance career. At times, your job or office culture may feel like one big political game – office gossip and rumors can spread like wildfire – but navigating office politics does not have to be complex.

It is however very important to be careful when undertaking this strategy, as office politics can also cause trouble, so you need to know how to use it as a positive asset rather than a self-destructive mechanism. Make sure you treat colleagues with the respect they deserve and don’t use office politics to get one up on someone. 

So how can you navigate through the world of office politics? Here are our three tips to remember:

1. Know when to play and when to avoid it

Consider what office politics means to you, in both a positive and negative sense. There are some aspects you should avoid, such as gossip, smear campaigns, backstabbing or finger-pointing at a bad boss.

Why? Because avoiding these damaging office politics games will allow you to be part of a team you actually like to work in and you will help to build a better work culture.

Other office games might be worthy of your political attention. For example, it can be worthwhile tuning into the grapevine for inside knowledge, like someone leaving soon and thereby opening up a spot for promotion – as long as you’re not getting involved or feeding the office gossip.

2. Pay attention to values

Your personal values are critical to any actions you take at work, and shouldn’t be compromised for any politics.

Be yourself, stay honest and don’t have a hidden agenda. You’ll continue to have the respect and support of your team and those above you, and navigating office politics in an ethical way means you can always stand by your actions.

Pay attention to the values of the organisation as well, because behaving within those realms will get you ahead for a potential promotion and that all-important pay rise.

3. Make good connections

While trying to climb the career ladder, forge connections at all levels of the organisation – not just the top.

You may be keen to get in the good books of those at management level, but don’t forget the importance of your peers. Be generous in sharing credit for good outcomes with your colleagues and your team, be friendly and genuinely caring, support each other and pitch in to help them out. After all, you never know when you’ll need their help.

Avoid office politics

Dealing with office politics can be time-consuming and draining. You don’t need to be best friends with everyone, but you do need to be able to work together effectively and productively.

While it’s tempting to ignore the office politics that exist in every organisation, it may be best to use it to your advantage. In fact, the majority of employees believe it’s important to use office politics to get ahead in their careers.

The simplest tip is to avoid office politics, or at the very least tread carefully, and you could find yourself moving forward positively in the workplace.

This article originally appeared as How to play the office politics game (and win) on the Robert Half Australia blog.

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