How to survive office politics


Politics play a significant role in every public organisation. After all politicians are at the helm and it is they who determine the agenda. But how skilled are you when it comes to politics in the office? Do you need to be more adept at playing this game? No matter how well-grounded and friendly you are playing politics is an essential part of your office survival toolkit.

Added on 29 April 2013 by Phil Anderson

How to survive office politics

Even if you hate the very nature of the term ‘office politics’ and believe you’re just there to keep your head down and deliver – unfortunately you just can’t avoid it you need to get involved at some level.

Clashes are inevitable from time to time at work. Wherever you have a group of people with different personalities sets of values and opinions – you’re going to come across office politics. Even if you are fortunate to work in an office where everyone gets on people can come and go so it’s best to be prepared for when office politics might rear its ugly head.

As you can’t avoid it you need to know how to manage the situation: there are some useful strategies you can adopt to minimise the effects of any clashes. What you should aim for is to manage any effects of office politics that directly relate to you and turn them to your favour or at least restrict their impact.

Phil Anderson shares ten top tips on how to navigate the maze of office politics:

Accept that office politics exists

You might envy those who sail through each day putting in little effort but still seem to rise up the ladder of your organisation. The fact is that to ensure your progress you have to play the game and office politics is here to stay. You can’t ignore it: to win a game you have to be part of it.

Know your organisation

To move ahead in any organisation you must understand its structure its position on contentious issues and its goals for the future. Learn who the influencers are and where it’s priorities lie. Knowing this will help you distinguish the most important people to ‘cultivate’ and also the correct way to respond in the best interests of your organisation.

Watch and learn from others

Observe those in influential positions or people who command the respect of others. Ask yourself how they have arrived at their position or why they are so respected. By learning how these ‘craft masters’ interact with colleagues and those in positions of power you will find better approaches to both communicating with colleagues and reporting to those above you.

Influence your outcomes


If you’re trying to sell an idea that is radical new or controversial it is advisable to have the majority of decision-makers on your side before you begin. Otherwise you could run the risk of failure or damaging your reputation. Persuading the most influential stakeholders to your point of view will help you influence others.

Stay in tune with your environment

Make sure your ideas fit in with those of the key influencers in your organisation. Be aware of your organisation’s overall strategy and ensure that your proposal matches this. This way you are more likely to find the appropriate solution to take the organisation forward. If you get it right this will also raise your profile at work.

Behave ethically at all times

Stay on the straight and narrow. There is a fine line between what is ethical and what is not. Dirt sticks so the best way to protect your reputation is to avoid trouble in the first place. Again make sure you know where the organisation stands and in what direction it is moving. Always ask yourself: ‘If they knew my plans would they let me proceed?’ If you are doing it for the benefit of the organisation then some would say that is an ethical approach.

Try to be a ‘good egg’ to colleagues

Interpersonal diplomacy is vital. Listen to others show empathy to your colleagues and check on their wellbeing. It’s about being seen as ‘the good egg’ one who is keen to support others and take new ideas forward. These are key elements to winning the support and respect of your peers.

Make meetings effective

Prepare yourself thoroughly before meetings so that you can gain the maximum value. When in a meeting present clear-cut and organised plans be bold and assertive and yet also receptive to the ideas of others. Above all remember that most decisions are made outside of meetings so hold your own smaller group discussions before the main decision-making forum.

Promote your accomplishments

Be proud of your accomplishments. Make sure that your own efforts are recognised and noted by those who matter. Although it might feel uncomfortable there is nothing wrong with advertising your success. So watch how others do it learn their techniques and find out which form of self-promotion works best for you.

Make good use of your network

Know who is good at what and who knows who. Try to remember people you’ve met and what they’ve told you about their own or others’ projects. Try to help them whenever you can because ‘what goes around comes around’. You might be surprised to see how others will then be more willing to help you.

A specialist in leadership Phil Anderson is a Faculty member of Ashridge Business School.