Office politics are about building relationships to achieve a result. Think about the last time you started a new project. Once you knew your goal, you needed to identify who was who in your company, who knew what, and who had power and influence. Those are the basic ingredients needed to execute any task. Your ability to be successful is largely dependent upon other people, so it’s in your best interests to always play nice.
Negative office politics come into play when resources are limited. In these situations, some people achieve their goals at the expense of others. Not cool. While you need to achieve your goals, there are undoubtedly ways you can do so without resorting to being devious and manipulating others. This is the type of behavior people think of when they hear “office politics.” Try to stay away from judging. Politics are how things get done. It is unavoidable—any time you have a group of people doing anything together, there are politics. Ignore them at your peril.
Make sure you understand exactly who in your office knows what, so you’ll know who to go to for advice and counsel. Also pay attention to power dynamics. You don’t necessarily have to get involved in them, but understanding who wields power will allow you to craft the best strategy for getting your work done. Be mindful of the fact that power doesn’t necessarily correlate with title. In many places, someone with a lower-ranking title can possess immense power due to the information they possess, their charisma, or their connections.
Build positive and productive relationships with everyone—and make sure they’re reciprocal. Play fair. After all, your career success depends on how well you do your job, so make office politics work for you.