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Office Politics: Positive, Negative or Neutral?

Office Politics: Positive, Negative, or Neutral?

Do you think of yourself as "politically savvy" at work? Politically savvy people often have better career prospects, are seen as more promotable and are less likely to have derailed careers. People who bumble through the political realities — or avoid or ignore them — are missing opportunities, connections and resources. Politics isn’t good. It isn’t bad. It’s simply a natural part of life in virtually any organization. Being politically savvy does not mean that you want someone else to lose in order for you to win. It isn’t about being false and inauthentic. Instead, it involves the sincere use of your skills, behaviors and qualities in order to be more effective.

The Center for Creative Leadership has produced a white paper on the subject of political savvy that outlines certain leadership behaviours that, if strengthened, could strengthen your political skills as well. These four key behaviours are:

• Building collaborative relationships. Developing and maintaining effective working relationships is related to two measures of political skill: interpersonal influence (a convincing personal style) and thinking before you speak (ability to size up situations well before speaking). Those who are highly skilled in interpersonal influence are capable of adapting their behavior according to their audience, which appears to translate into especially strong relationships with bosses.

• Composure. Are you calm in a crisis? Do you recover quickly from mistakes? Composure has to do with controlling impulses during difficult times and being responsible for what you say. Composure ratings seem closely linked to measures of how well an individual thinks before speaking.

• Putting people at ease. This gets at the heart of what it takes to make others relaxed and comfortable in your presence. People who are warm and have a good sense of humor are often able to make others feel at ease. Bosses saw the ability to put people at ease as related to interpersonal influence. The ability to adapt according to contextual conditions is related to how comfortable others are in your presence.

• Career management. How well do you manage your own career? Those adept at career management develop, maintain and use professional relationships for mentoring, coaching and feedback. Bosses related career management to two important political skills: networking ability (adept at developing and using diverse networks) and thinking before you speak. In other words, managers who are seen as being good at managing their careers are likely to have strong networking skills and are able to think about the potential impact of their words on others.

Source for this article: Women and Political Savvy: How to build and embrace a fundamental leadership skill by Jean Brittain Leslie and William A. Gentry.

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