October 1, 2004
Be A Good Politician
They called him Mr. Politician. He fluttered around the office like a bee to honey, laughing, joking, and negotiating with co-workers to align with his train of thought — from the latest movies to the best restaurants. And when the time came to work on projects, his constituency readily supported many of his decisions. So how can you be more like that? It’s not only about getting people to like you, but also to support your point of view, so when decision time comes, whether it’s going to your favorite hang-out spot or negotiating your salary, you’ll win the favor of others every time.
Experts agree that your outlook on politics in the office and at home will determine whether you resist and stay stuck or become victorious by practicing these positive techniques:
PERFECTING INTERPERSONAL SKILLS
A landmark 1994 study reported that many employers rate human relations skills higher than conceptual or technical skills. “What most people don’t realize is that working well with others goes far beyond likability,” says Julie Morgenstern, author of Making Work Work (Simon & Schuster; $22). “It means making everybody’s job easier so that they are [in turn] successful. This builds strong relationships and allies,” says Morgenstern. For managers, this means addressing concerns or clarifying instructions in an open, direct environment.
CHOOSING YOUR BATTLES
When dealing with an issue, think it through. “The last thing you want to do is wing it if you can avoid that,” says Hansburg. Evaluate your concern on a scale from one to 10. Ask yourself: What are the consequences if you bring it up? How intrinsic to your goals is it to resolve this problem? Is this something that you are taking too personally? Remember to “keep a level tone of voice and [keep] eye contact going. Be willing to stop talking … which people have a lot of trouble doing,” she adds. This allows the other person a chance to raise objections and gives you an opportunity to ask questions.
BEING ATEAM PLAYER
From the onset, everybody should realize that they will have to work to get on the same page. “Even if we had a team of the most brilliant and skillful people, they still need time to get through that complicated, interpersonal traffic jam,” says Freda Hansburg, co-author of Working PeopleSmart (Berrett-Koehler Publishers; $18.95). A team of five, for example, has at least 120 relationships going on at any given time. Remember, a team could be you and your spouse, or even the local PTA. Teams work best when there are common goals, mutual respect, and an understanding of each member’s strengths.
WORKING TO ADAPT
With ongoing downsizing and mergers, workplace environments are prone to change. “People who are really resistant to change or just feel safe when it works [a certain way] are going to be the first to go. If you can learn [to adapt quickly], you’ll rise up to the top 10% of employees in the country,” says Morgenstern. Take change as an opportunity to develop your talents. Most importantly, develop a sense