It Takes More than Hard Work, Politics is Key

By Marie-Therese Phido


When I read the quotation below from former astronaut and motivational speaker Leroy Chiao, who said he wish he knew that it takes more than just hard work to find success, I could relate to it and I am sure many of us can.
Leroy said, “my parents where both originally from China, so although I was born and raised in the US, I was instilled with the ideas that the important thing in life was to work hard and that rewards would come from hard work. It was not until later that I really started to believe that a big factor in one’s success has to do with relationships and politics.

Throughout my young life and college days, I thought that hard work and commitment were the things that would get me ahead. I wish I knew then that it is not only what you know, but it is also about the politics of the situation. This is true no matter if very localized or between a few people or macro scale.”


What Leroy found out late in life was what I also found out very late in life. For many years I thought politics did not exist but that my work would speak for me and I tried hard that I put all the required effort to ensure success. However, it got to a point that hard work no longer mattered, relationships and politics became paramount.


The truth is that in all situations where you have to deal with human beings, relationships and politics will always come into play. It is also a fact that in your career or within a situation, your hard work will no longer be as important as your ability to build relationships and play the right politics. Many people could have done better in their careers or businesses but did not because they were not conscious of this factor.
Michelle Penelope King says, “succeeding in today’s workplace requires that you be a “team player” (be political). 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.
King goes on to tell us some of the signs we should look out for that will show that we are not politically savvy.


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 judgement. This alone can limit career advancement. For managers, the ability to see the cliques or fractions within the workplace restricts effectiveness.


You’re Only Focused on Getting the Job Done
We 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. Many of us have this problem without being aware that we may be bruising egos and alienating people with our det6ermination to do a great job.
The need for achievement can isolate people because they tend to focus on their individual contribution to task instead of engaging with others to collectively achieve outcomes.


You’re To Make Yourself Look Good
Always try to make others look good, shine the light on them – not doing this, leads to low levels of trust. Being politically savvy will entail shifting from trying to make yourself look good to trying to make yourself look good to trying to make others look good.


Excluding Yourself 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. You have to balance being liked by playing the right politics with strong performance. Otherwise, you are also out! In view of the above, we must engage in office politics to succeed. Dr. Travis Bradberry in his post. “How to Win Office Politics”, says, “stop wishing it will go away and start learning how to thrive in your workplace’s political environment,” he wrote. “You don’t have to dive into the seedy underbelly of office politics to win the game, you win by playing smart and knowing when and how it’s worth getting involved.
First, Bradberry advised, “you need to learn the lay of the land”. “Your office is full of allies and rivals, and. If you and listen closely you can get a pretty good sense of who’s aligned with whom, “he wrote. That includes noticing who has lunch together, who gets invited to important meetings and who doesn’t and who seems to be the first or the last to know about changes that are coming. “The answers to this question define your political landscape”, Bradberry wrote. but don’t choose a side yet.” it’s smart to understand the rules and the players and their strategies before you jump into the fray.”
After that, “you should build broad alliance”, he wrote. “if you accomplish this and show people across the board that they can rely on you, you’ll stand a good chance of coming out ahead, no matter which political camp is currently ‘winning’.” Also importantly, keep the goal of playing office politics in mind, “you’re not engaging in office politics for fun or to be one of them’, you’re doing it for two reasons career success and job fulfilment. Bradberry wrote “when you get caught up emotionally, you run the risk of making decisions you’ll regret down the road. Gossiping, backstabbing, manipulating, and the rest are not needed to win at the office politics.” Instead, think about how you and your opponent can both get what you want. Most importantly. “you must stick to your principles, without fail. Before taking any action that’s fuelled by office politics, ask yourself why you’re doing it,” Bradberry wrote. “if it conflicts with your values and beliefs about fair behavior, it’s better not gets involved”
Start understanding that politics is necessary for success. Don’t be like me and Leroy who did not understand that the right relationships were sometimes more important than hard work till late in our careers. Instead, be like those who have mastered the art of office politics as they seem to have more doors opened to them at work.
Photo Credit: Microsoft