Management Matters: Workplace Politics

As an employee, I was not good at office politics and spent a lot of time bemoaning the fact that it existed at all. In every organization that I have consultedfor, I have observed that just about everyone competes for something. This can include: opportunities, money, customers, resources, promotions, face time with colleagues, prestige, recognition, advancement, and power. With so many people maneuvering and calculating their next move, it illustrates the harsh truth about politicking - it works. Rather than wishing it away, it makes more sense to acknowledge that it exists and to learn how to get better at it. Workplace politics can be essential to both your survival and success.

Within the political games, there seem to be three kinds of players:

Pollyanna – The idealist who is focused on work. They work hard and don't like politics. They follow the rules, try to do what is 'fair' and 'right,' and feel frustrated when decisions made are not 'fair' or 'right.' They end up sounding like organizational martyrs, complaining about how unfair things are.

Tony Soprano –The schemer who may be arrogant, is sometimes a bully and always has a clear focus on what is best for them. They climb over others, manipulate, deceive, and exploit people and situations to get the upper hand.

The Pragmatist–This is the person that respects the rules and also understands that the unofficial rules of politics can be more important. They know that decision makers have both personal and professional buttons that need to be pressed.

Politicking describes the act of examining business relationships and learning how to influence others more effectively. It means using informal AND formal channels, and that isn't always a bad thing. It requires some strategic thought and planning followed by careful execution. Understanding politics and knowing how to exert a little influence can help you pull people together and achieve outcomes that are in the firm's best interest – as well as others, and your own.


  • Be completely candid with any one, at any time, no matter where, when, or who might be listening
  • Focus only on your needs, goals, and objectives
  • Believe good work trumps alliances and relationships
  • Blow your own horn
  • Use people and steal ideas


  • Be aware of the pecking order, the organizational chart, friendships and alliances
  • Pay your dues
  • Align with people who are successful
  • Identify the ‘Tony Sopranos’ and develop a survival strategy
  • Know what the goals are of others and support their efforts
  • Make people aware of your accomplishments and give credit to others
  • Be aware (and prepare for)the consequences of your actions

During this election season, you may observe that workplace politics are like the national political scene. You can play the game, learn to play it well, or get left behind. It's completely up to you.

No matter which role you decide to play, workplace politics won’t go away after Election Day.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management training and development consulting practice that specializes in developing human resources in the areas of leadership and management training, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 20 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

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