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Don't Bungle In The Jungle: Become A Political Animal

Office politics is a fact of life, and often you have to choose whether to eat or be eaten. Here are five tips to avoid being someone else's meal.

Everyone in the organization, from the boss to the newest intern, requires a finely tuned political sense. Sometimes, in fact, you have to be a political animal. The relationships and social networks you create with coworkers are not just essential for getting your work done, but for determining your ultimate success.

Office politics, therefore, is part and parcel of working life. You can try to ignore it or you can decide to get good at it. In my experience, the benefits of getting good at office politics are well worth your time and energy. Here are five simple ways to successfully navigate your way through the jungle.

1. Identify Key Players

The first step is to identify the key people in your organization. Consider rank and experience, but also look beyond official titles and seek out people who actually get things done. Identify those individuals who attract others, who seem indispensable to the organization, and who possess a deep understanding of how the organization runs. Observe how these key players interact with others, and how their interactions contribute positively (and negatively) to the organization. Align yourself with them.

2Be Professional

As a boss, always conduct yourself professionally in your day-to-day interactions with your co-workers, employees, customers, and bosses. Even in casual conversation, cultivate and maintain a reputation for being positive and helpful, and strive to remain objective. Listen and gain information, offer advice when appropriate, but avoid contributing to rumors and spreading gossip when conversations become personal. Think before you speak, because what seems trivial to you may be very important to someone else. As a leader, your comments carry weight with those around you. Thoughtless comments are all too often easily misunderstood and misconstrued and can be used against you later by unscrupulous individuals.

3. Include, Incorporate, and Communicate

There is power in numbers, but think carefully about who you include in your conversations. Solicit information and advice as needed, but seek out only the people you actually need help from to get your job done. Avoid self-promotion and taking credit for your employees' work. Communicate openly and honestly with people you trust, and be polite but reserved with people you don’t. Remember: Anything and everything you say may eventually be heard by everyone in the entire organization. Before speaking, make sure you’re okay with that.

4. Protect Your People

Protect your employees from attacks by other managers, departments, or organizations. Take the initiative to resolve disputes quickly at the highest level possible, and stop disagreements from spreading into department-wide battles. Prevent other managers from involving themselves in your department's affairs, and your employees'.  

5. Embrace the Political Reality of your Organization

Because people are political by nature, accept that politics are part of the daily routine. Always strive to build constructive relationships with co-workers, employees, and management. By doing so, your actions will help you avoid those who use politics to gain power, gain an advantage at someone else's expense, promote hidden agendas, and use private, confidential information against others.


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Last updated: Jan 20, 2014


While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest columns, and visit him anytime at

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