Work Politics May Be Tedious, But You Can Leverage Them For Career Growth With These Tips

Workplace politics tend to get a bad rep. They're frequently associated with gossip, kiss-ups, and other petty concerns. Rather than getting involved with work politics, many employees will just keep their heads down and hope their hard graft alone allows them to climb up the ladder of success. It's often considered a power game, and staying out of it is seen as the more moral route. However, this is actually another work myth that could hold you back from the success you deserve. 

Career experts warn that not only can steering clear of office politics stifle your progress in the long run, but it's also an inaccurate view of their overall importance. Generally speaking, at their core, work politics refers to how relationships and resources get organized in the workplace. While most people think of bad politics — the ones involving manipulation and immaturity — there is a way to engage in good politics at work. 

Research published by Personnel Psychology suggests that being more adept at office politics "is positively related to self-efficacy, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, work productivity, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), career success, and personal reputation, and negatively related to physiological strain." Clearly, there are plenty of benefits. But, if you haven't been paying attention to this area of your career, it's not too late to take notice. 

Reframe your negative attitude toward office politics

First and foremost, improving your political savvy takes real motivation. If you usually dread such efforts, it might be time to challenge how you think about them. Leadership, culture, and strategy facilitator Niven Postma writes in the Harvard Business Review that we must be conscious of the narratives we tell ourselves about work as they play a significant role in our overall approach and, ultimately, will affect the success of our professional networking.

Postma provides some thought swaps you can make to find a healthier attitude toward workplace politics, clarifying that there's an important difference between being a suck-up and trying to create fruitful relationships. Likewise, if you consider mindless chatter to be a drag or worse, an attempt at dominating the proceedings, consider using it to gain important knowledge about your colleagues. 

Keep in mind that intention is a crucial aspect of everything you do at work. Postma's positive reframing could give you the inspiration you need to improve your office politics. It will also help you to avoid the selfish, and self-sabotaging, mindset that can lead to bad workplace politics.

Practice these four skills to become more politically savvy

Once you have formed a positive attitude about workplace politics, you can begin building the respect you need in your organization. While your career is not everything, being satisfied with your professional life does play a key role in your mental and physical health. Luckily, the steps to gaining the power you seek have been thoroughly researched. In his book, "Political Skill at Work" (via Lifehacker), social science researcher Gerald Ferris and his colleagues detail the four key skills everybody needs to succeed in workplace politics: Social astuteness, interpersonal influence, networking ability, and apparent sincerity. 

Social astuteness essentially means having a clear and consistent picture of how you impact others, while interpersonal influence refers to your ability to connect with and persuade them. Likewise, networking ability is simply your capacity to form relationships with a wide range of individuals that are equally advantageous for everybody involved, and apparent sincerity is your propensity to be viewed as inherently trustworthy and honest. If you take the time to build aptitude in these four areas, you can take greater control over your career goals and make work politics work for you.