Your department desperately needs new equipment, but the CMO and CFO are playing power games and the CFO is using the budget to get one up on the CMO. Likewise, marketing is in sore need of an upgrade to their critical software system, but the CIO is using that as leverage to force your workers to take on more responsibility for technical training and computer maintenance. These are usually the issues that we call ‘office politics’, but this is only the bad side of it. Office politics doesn’t have to be negative, and it can benefit both your department and the company as a whole.
Office Politics: It Doesn’t Have to Be a Bad Thing
The positive side of office politics is the opposite of what you see above. Instead of power plays and acts of passive aggression, you see people using the power and influence of their positions for the greater good. For example:
• The CMO uses the goodwill she has fostered with upper management to get a presentation scheduled. In the presentation, she demonstrates how faster computers in the marketing department benefits the other departments. For instance, sales will get the information on qualified leads faster after an online lead generation campaign, and finance will get the project sales numbers faster so that budgeting and forecasting is quicker and more accurate.
• The CMO uses goodwill she has fostered with the IT department to negotiate a compromise. The marketing department agrees to take on their own upgrading and system backups, which doesn’t take much technical skill, while the tech department agrees to provide more training on elements of the system that the non-techie marketing folks are struggling with.
The Rules for Playing Positive Office Politics
Of course, using goodwill implies that the CMO has taken the time and effort to foster that goodwill in the first place. There are a few rules for keeping office politics on the positive side, according to Michael Warshaw of Fast Company.
First, adopt the attitude that nobody wins unless everybody wins. This means that in every situation, you should look for a way to give everybody something they need or want, in other words, everybody gets a win.
Second, realize that the most important currency you exchange in the workplace is relationships. Treat people well on the way up the ladder, because those are the folks you’ll be dealing with on the way back down the ladder.
Thirdly, don’t be ashamed to cut deals. As long as everybody can claim a win and you’ve put the relationships before the things, cutting a deal won’t be hard to do without stepping on toes. Cutting deals like the examples mentioned above isn’t a bad thing. The right deals keep the business moving forward without claiming casualties like hurting feelings and alienating potential allies.
In the end, politics can be a positive thing, so long as the players act in good faith and with mutual respect.
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