You’re no stranger to office politics. In your early career days, you may have disliked the informal, unspoken and sometimes subjective codes of behavior-norms of communication and information transfer, the interaction in the chain-of-command-that helped to shape company culture. But now that you’re on the senior management level, you are among the decision makers who influence the tone of the “politics” that govern the way your organization does business. How did that implied responsibility fall on your shoulders, and what does it entail?
“In government politics, you choose to participate as an elected official. But in a corporation, you made the choice to participate in politics when you accepted the job offer,” says John H. Stroger Jr., two-term president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners in Chicago. “Daily campaigning is what it takes to stay in office-any office, whether public or corporate. Whether you’ve been appointed to a position by the people or by human resources, you have to always campaign to make sure that your efforts provide the best goods or services for your constituency,” he says.
And while Stroger points out that people in corporate positions serve a “special constituency,” he contends that all constituencies consist of those being served. And remember, “those individuals impact whether or not you remain in office.” He offers tips on how to manage the political responsibilities of your position:
- Know yourself. In order to determine what your level of commitment to participate in office politics will be, you have to know what your ethics are, what you believe in and are willing to defend. Further, become the model for what you believe. Demonstrate your values in your professional and personal conduct. Know what you will or will not do to get results, and be clear and firm in articulating these boundaries to others.
- Know politics. It is the art and science of knowing who to talk to and work with to get things done, says Stroger. He suggests observing the others in leadership positions to see how they work together to accomplish goals and objectives.
- Know your constituency. “Constituencies are vital to staying in office. Knowing what they want helps you to know what you need to do to keep your job,” says Stroger. Maximize all opportunities to get to know your internal and external customers. Build face-to-face relationships with your constituency to build trust and loyalty. Handshakes and smiles will go a lot further than memos or telephone calls. Discover what your constituency would like to see happen in the company and how they think it might be done through employee suggestion boxes, surveys and other polling measures. Look for shared goals and opportunities to discuss mutual and shared responsibilities. When dealing with others becomes difficult, remind yourself of the outcomes you want to achieve through dealing with these individuals.
- Know your platform. “You must have a platform [position] in order to effectively sell yourself to the corporation and constituency.” Stroger says that positioning yourself with a point of view is essential to letting others