Five Signs You’re Not Playing the Political Game at Work

Are you negotiating and persuasively engaging? Or backstabbing, horn-blowing, or tuning out? Find out your level of personal skill.

office talk

Succeeding in today’s workplace requires that you be a “team player.” In other words, game on. The ability to negotiate, influence, engage, convince and persuade effectively to get things done is the essence of political skill — not backstabbing or manipulation, research reveals.

High levels of political skill neutralizes workplace stressors and enhances performance, reputation, success and career progression, according to Gerald Ferris, Professor of Management and Psychology at Florida State University.

But how do you know if you’ve got game? Interviews with 30 senior executives reveal five signs that you don't.

You’re not politically aware
To engage effectively in office politics, you have to understand interpersonal dynamics and power plays at work. This includes being aware of others interactions and how your behavior is viewed.

A lack of political awareness is sometimes perceived as poor judgment. This alone can limit career advancement. For managers, the inability to see the cliques or factions within the workplace restricts their effectiveness. A key part of a leader’s role is bringing others along with them in a process and managing internal stakeholders.

You're only focused on getting the job done
Do you care about what is achieved rather than how it is achieved? Being overly focused on results and outcomes at the expense of others is a sign of poor political skill.

The need for achievement can isolate people because they tend to focus on their individual contribution to tasks instead of engaging with others to collectively achieve outcomes.

Managers describe these individuals as “task focused” or “technical experts” — but unlikely to succeed in leadership roles in spite of their performance.

You try to make yourself look good
People can see spotlight-stealing plain as day — and it leads to low levels of trust. Workplace politics must appear authentic rather than coercive, according to Ferris, or people feel that you’re trying to “play them.” Being authentic means shifting from trying to make yourself look good to trying to make others look good.

 Having political skill means your interactions are believable because you actually are what you claim to be.

You're excluded from office politics
Politics at work does not occur in a vacuum, but rather through interactions with others. We have all seen or experienced not being part of an “in crowd” or the boss’ favorite. If you accept social exclusion at the office, you’re likely to become apathetic about your work.

Choosing not to engage in office politics leads to further isolation. It also makes it more difficult to try and have any sort of influence down the road.

You're too concerned with being liked  
Being likable, sociable and easy to work with does not always result in a strong performance. It doesn’t mean you know how to leverage your strengths to sell an idea or push an agenda. When being liked becomes the primary objective, it often leads to getting outmaneuvered at work.

Understanding the five types of poor political skills is the key to strengthening your power at work. Establishing self-awareness and influencing tactics is largely a game of trial and error. But knowing what not to do can give you a leading edge.

You might also like:
I Found Out My Coworker Makes More Than Me — Now I Want A Raise
Get Along With Your Most Annoying Coworkers
My Job Isn’t My Identity, and That’s Okay

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT