Office politics is good for you. That is, it makes your life better — not just your work life, but your whole life.
Office politics is a commitment to quality — in your relationships and in your projects. So you need to see it as the glorious underpinning of a transparent workplace in which everyone helps one another.
To that end, being good at office politics improves your ability to meet goals while also adhering to your core values. Here are five reasons why.
1. Office politics reward people who are genuinely kind.
The people who think office politics is about kissing up are the ones who don’t understand being nice.
Being nice is taking the time to figure out what’s important to someone and helping him or her get what they want. This requires empathy, compassion, and an intention to do good. Who can argue that this isn’t positive stuff?
People who try to do favors without taking the time to understand what others actually want are brownnosers. It’s empty favors and vapid praise that give office politics a bad name. But there’s justice in this world: People who attempt office politics without the empathy and compassion it requires actually do very poorly at them.
2. Office politics reward good time-managers.
To be good at office politics, you need to take the time to understand other peoples’ work so you can give them help when you can (after getting your own work done first, of course).
You shouldn’t expect others to take time to teach you what they do. Part of doing a good deed is not requiring extra work from someone in order to perform the good deed for them.
So only good time-managers succeed at office politics, because only the highly productive can feel comfortable enough with their own workload to take on tasks that require lots of mental energy but aren’t on their to-do list per se.
That said, if you think you can be good at your job without making time for office politics, you’re wrong. The hardest workers aren’t the ones who get promoted. It’s the people who are most liked at the office who get promoted.
3. Office politics is the answer to burnout.
It’s very fashionable to complain about feeling burned-out at work. Fortunately, office politics is a way to solve the burnout problem.
Burnout doesn’t come from too much work — it comes from doing the wrong kind of work. So you can solve your burnout problems by figuring out who has the power to give you rewarding work. Figure out how you can help that person, and once you’ve made their life better ask them for help making your life better. People like to help others who’ve helped them.
You might argue that it’s better to do good deeds without expecting anything in return, and that’s true. So go do some. But you can be both altruistic and political at the same time. They’re not mutually exclusive — doing both just requires more time and energy.
4. Office politics is a road to self-knowledge.
Some people are easy to read. You see your boss’ weakness, say, and jump in to help overcome that weakness. Or you see when a co-worker is scared and offer support at just the right time.
But some people are baffling. One or two will always misinterpret what you say, or always think you’re annoying, or always exclude you from office activity. These are the people you can learn the most from, because you have to examine your own weaknesses to see why you can’t connect with them. And you have to challenge yourself and stretch your strengths to meet them on their own terms.
Don’t tell me some people are too difficult — being good at office politics means being able to get along with anyone. Aim to be that kind of person and you’ll be more likable and more capable in work and life.
5. Office politics is about honesty.
Why are you at work? To grow, to learn, to support yourself, and to have fun. How do you meet these goals? By carefully setting yourself up to get what you want from the people you spend your day with.
It’s absurd to think that you go to work only to meet company goals. That’s not enough, because you won’t stay with the company forever. Be loyal, sure, but be loyal to the idea of doing good work for whoever employs you. And be loyal to your own goals — to the idea that you owe it to yourself to find paths to grow.
Office politics is the process of meeting these goals — for yourself and for the company you work for. Those who are most dedicated to productive, honest, and meaningful work are also most dedicated to the art of office politics.