ME: Bonnie Marcus is one high-powered leader and she has just given everyone who cares about empowered and bold leadership a great gift in the launch of her new book Politics of Promotion: How High-Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead.
Hint: The title says “Women“, but the solid career advice and leadership thinking in this post and in the book is valuable for all of us.
Here’s Bonnie to add some value to your leadership journey:
There isn’t any topic about the workplace that brings up more anger and frustration than office politics. Women especially find this an emotional issue. Why? Because women are more likely than men to avoid the politics and believe that if they focus on their performance and work hard, they will get ahead. This avoidance, however, sets them up to be blindsided.
Unaware of the politics at play, they are often passed over for promotions and not given the resources they need to succeed. They become disillusioned and angry. The reality, which is sometimes hard to come to terms with, is that it takes political savvy to get ahead and stay ahead.
Here are the 3 of the most frustrating facts about office politics:
You can’t escape it. It’s everywhere.
It is not uncommon for people to voice their annoyance with the politics in their company and department and seek another position to solve this problem. They make a move only to find out that politics exists everywhere. In some instances, the politics may not be obvious, but it exists in every department and every company. In fact, whenever there is more than one person, there is politics!
Think about going out for dinner with a group of friends. Who sits next to whom? Who shares the gossip with whom? Have you visited your children’s classroom and observed the dynamics? Aren’t there politics at play there as well? They learn at an early age what it takes to have power and influence and what it takes to succeed.
The fact is you can’t escape politics. It’s everywhere and you need to deal with it at some level in order to thrive in the workplace.
The unwritten rules often rule.
The people who try to diligently follow the rules are often very frustrated. Yes, every company has a company handbook with the formal policies, but it is the unwritten rules that are important. If you’re lucky, when you join a new company or department, a trusted colleague will fill you in as to what the real rules are.
Once you accept the fact that there are unwritten rules, you can make it your intention to uncover them. The rules often differ depending on your boss, department, and team. Therefore, you must be cognizant of your surroundings to understand how to play the game and how to win the game.
The rules are constantly changing.
Another challenge to office politics is that the rules are always changing. Just when you’ve figured out what rules are sacred to your boss, he/she changes the rules and what was acceptable yesterday will not help you move forward tomorrow. New leadership comes in and things shift. People adapt to these changes and what they once considered to be important is no longer valid. It’s a full time job staying abreast of people’s rules and the importance they attach to their rules at different points in time.
The facts about office politics may be very frustrating but they must be understood for your success. Embrace the politics, whatever they are, and pay special attention to the reality of your workplace. Your performance and your political savvy are the keys to getting ahead and staying ahead.
A longer version of this post went live on 1/19/15 at forbes.com.
Bonnie Marcus is the author of The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead (Wiley, March 2015).