Get your way in the workplace without making enemies

Politics has long been a dirty word and “office politics” is an even dirtier one

David Rigby
David Rigby - Special to Al Arabiya English
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First we had Intelligence Quota (IQ), then we realized that reasoning was not enough and so Emotional Intelligence (EQ) became the way forward. Still not enough – and thus was born Political Intelligence, or political astuteness (PQ).

Politics has long been a dirty word and “office politics” is an even dirtier one stereotypically employed only by those who are manipulative, devious and self-serving. But playing the politics game is really the only game in town now that golf has lost its lustre. Understanding the lay of the land and using it to your advantage is a valuable tool in influencing and engaging others. Known as “the art of getting things done,” political astuteness is about working to achieve organizational and social goals.

The theory of political astuteness suggests acquiring:

Personal skills

• Having self-awareness
• Being able to exert self-control
• Having a pro-active disposition i.e. someone who tried to anticipate and develop the agenda

Interpersonal skills

• Listening to others
• Encouraging people to be open with you
• Being curious with people, making them feel valued

Reading people and situations

• Being able to see others’ perspectives: what their values, motives, interests and goals are
• Understanding organisational goals and power structures
• Recognising the threat that you (individually or organisationally) pose to others

Building alignment and alliances

• Understanding who you can work with and who to exclude in order to achieve organisational goals
• Making alliances in situations of competition
• Knowing when to collaborate or compete
• Understanding organisations differences in alliances
• Strategic direction and scanning

Retaining a sense of purpose

• Understanding when to move fast on your agenda and when to hold off as the timing is wrong
• Picking up signals from others (trade press, colleagues, external sources) highlighting changes in situation and helping you to identify what is over the horizon

Control impulses and think before you speak. Choose your organizational battles wisely and size up situations before deciding how to present ideas to others. Consider whether or not to voice a thought or a feeling and get the method and timing right. Abandon point scoring.

Manage up. Skillfully communicate with your bosses, not forgetting to maintain good relationships with people at all levels in the organization.

Practice influence. Build stronger interpersonal relationships and have good rapport with others. Have good judgment about when to assert yourself, which in turn results in more cooperative relationships. Skilled influencers are not always overtly political; they just play the political game fairly and effortlessly.

Hone your powers of perception. Comprehend social interaction, and in social settings accurately interpret your own behavior as well as that of others.

Learn to network. Effective networking goes well beyond passing out business cards or schmoozing. Leaders who possess a strong networking ability build friendships and beneficial working relationships by garnering support, negotiating and managing conflict. Give help first so you can ask for help later.

Be sincere. Display high levels of integrity, authenticity, sincerity and genuineness. Be – or appear to be – honest, open and forthright, inspiring trust and confidence. Be genuine with everyone in your organization. If you try too hard, your co-workers will see right through it.

Thus spoke Henry Ford 100 years ago. However, the most frequent learning opportunities for political astuteness come about through failure or mismanagement. Mistakes within organizations are often swept under the carpet or managers shift the blame from themselves, instead of taking an objective view of their own role and how they could have handled situations to deliver better organizational outcomes. So examine the past and learn from it.

How can you tell if a leader has political skills? The answer: if they appear not to have any such skills at all.

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