Positive Office Politics – a necessary skill

By Dr Lydia Cillie-Schmidt

I am still going on a trip down memory lane after discovering my 2008 editions of the T+D Magazine. As I was browsing through the March 2008 edition of the then ASTD’s (Now Association for Talent Development – ATD) magazine, I notice that Leadership Development was a hot topic then too – over the past ten years we do not seem to have found an enduring answer to the question of how to ensure that we have the right leaders in place at the right time.

The article in the March 2008 edition that however caught my eye was on page 76, “Playing the Office Politics Game” by Louellen Essex and Mitchell Kusy. The reason why it probably grabbed my attention is because we have recently started presenting the “Organizational Savvy” workshops by Brandon Partners (brandonpartners.com) in South Africa. The article showed me that knowing how to manage the politics in the workplace is an essential skill for all, no matter whether it is 2008 or 2018.

As Louellen and Mitchell wrote in their article: “Unfortunately, being political is essential in the workplace. If you refuse to play the office politics game, you may lose out on important opportunities”. This resonates for me with what Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman wrote in their book “Survival of the Savvy”, namely that lack of organisational savvy can threaten anyone’s influence, organisational impact, career growth, team credibility and company results. Rick and Marty do however reframe office politics as a practical, value-free part of work life and state that it is neither inherently good nor bad, neither vile nor virtuous and that certain conditions determine whether office politics become constructive or destructive.

When viewing office politics as a necessary skill, it therefore seems prudent to take note of some of the techniques that were highlighted in the article by Louellen and Mitchell: Identify the power holders; Tailor your work style; Be an expert; Recognize others; Use your influence wisely; Network, but don’t align; Be respected and respectful; Work with your enemies.

If you cannot source this T+D article, I highly recommend the book “Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success” by Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman as it is very practical and full of actionable insights to develop your organisational savvy skills.


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