Do you work in a political office? Many of us consider office politics to be negative and to be avoided, but business trainer and entrepreneur Mary Foley says that knowing how to create the right relationships in the workplace is the secret to career success.
Mary Foley knows her way around office communications. With a brand-new engineering degree, in 1988 she went to work for an unknown company with just 120 employees, called America Online. Earning $8 an hour as a customer service rep, she focused on doing a good job and was promoted four times over ten years, ending up as the first head of corporate training for AOL as the company exploded to 12,000 employees.
Ten years later, when she didn't get a promotion she felt she'd earned, she realized that what had gotten her there – hard work and performance – didn't work to get past a certain level.
She'd hit a glass ceiling. So she stepped back to see where she went wrong, and realized that just doing a good job and being an effective manager isn't enough… she also needed to understand, decode and make use of office politics.
Not long after, Mary decided to retire (getting in on the ground floor with stock options and surfing the wave of AOL's growth had a payoff), and she began writing and speaking, mostly to other women, about what it takes to thrive in a career and live life full out.
One of her books (which she gives away for free on her website) is What Every Woman Must Know About Office Politics and it is filled with insight and no-nonsense advice for both men and women who are .
Mary Foley cautions people not to ignore office politics, or to just write them off as "conniving and manipulating" but instead to understand them so you can use relationships in the workplace to your advantage.
In fact, she says, you might be participating in some political office maneuvering already, without even knowing it. If you've done someone a favor so they'd know who you are, or went to bat for your team or just agonized over how to say something the right way, that could be a political office moment.
"Relationships + Power = Office Politics"
Office politics are what you get when you add relationships and power together, Mary says, and that can be a good thing. The right relationships in the workplace help business run smoothly, as people are promoted and bosses are able to get cooperation for what their team needs. To get what you want, you need relationships.
On the flip side, an unbalanced political office can result in the wrong people getting promoted and employees who become territorial and defensive.
Mary offers six strategies for direction in navigating the ins and outs of office power and relationships:
Know what winning will look like for you. Start by getting clear on what you really want from the situation. A promotion? Public recognition for your people? First dibs on a juicy new assignment? A better office?
Know your platform. What is it that you stand for? What makes you unique that you want people to know you for?
Know your company's power base. What behaviors are considered powerful and valuable in your company? Is the power in who you know? Getting bottom-line results?
Learn the art of lobbying. What's the best way to present your ideas? How can you influence others to see things the way you want?
Learn the art of compromise.The better you can compromise, the more likely you will get what you want. Know what's negotiable and what's not.
Learn graceful defeat. Being able to take a stand and then to step back graciously is empowering and can help maintain relationships that will be valuable for you later.
Mary's advice about office politics and relationships in the workplace has applications in every area of our lives, and she shows how different situations you might find yourself in can be viewed through these six strategies.
If you find yourself not really leveraging your relationships to get what you want, and wanting some guidance in sorting out how to use power and relationships to your own benefit, you can get your own copy of Mary's book on her website at www.MaryFoley.com.
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