Getting ahead at work has something to do with your performance and a lot to do with your perceived performance. What I call perceived performance is nothing new but just the good old office politics. One thing that I learned – rather the hard way – is that office politics matter. I, personally, am not a fan at all and try to stay as clean and honest as possible. However, even if you are not a fan, it does not mean that you can avoid it. It’s like the law, not being aware of it does not spare you of the liability.
A great way to “play the game” is to work on your visibility because that’s the currency of office politics. My one advice here is to compromise as little as you can, and become as visible as possible – a little bit of the “become so good that they can’t ignore you” philosophy. The trick to it is that you need to work to make yourself visible, just hard work won’t be enough. If you like me, dread boasting about how great of a job you do and how this and how that, you will totally hate the idea. But, let me tell you there are ways to bypass that and make yourself visible while staying true to yourself and your own values.
Here are three tips that will help you up your game when it comes to gaining visibility at work and playing the office politics game:
- Put a voice to your work and success stories. Yes, results and numbers speak for themselves, but sometimes there is just too much noise and you have to amplify it a little. There is no need to start boasting out of the blue, but find ways in which you are comfortable speaking up and sharing the results of your work. Maybe you’ve come up with a template worth sharing with your team/department, maybe you can organise & lead an internal training based on your area of expertise, whatever it is make sure you share the results of your work. If you are comfortable with it, also start speaking up more in internal meetings or town halls. It’s essential to get your voice heard so the right people know what you bring to the table. You don’t need to use these forums in an inauthentic way, you need to simply project an image/voice of reason, competence and drive. Just ask a few right questions or bring up relevant topics.
- Pick up an internal initiative. This is such an easy way to get visibility internally and especially in the eyes of your leadership; it’s one of my favourite tips that I will never get tired of sharing. If you are committed to the role and to growing in the organization, invest some time in leading an internal initiative. It shows drive to better the company and internal processes and it can help build your network and reputation. Picking an initiative that has strategic importance is the way to go – just organizing the Friday drinks might not get you there – as it also increases your chances to interact with leadership, especially if you have been trying to get that exposure without much success. Is there a need to consolidate best practices or own a new internal process but there is no one doing it? Consider volunteering for the cause. Becoming a subject matter expert allows you to build a network and be top of mind when it comes to certain topics.
- Get other people to do the heavy lifting for you and boast about how great you are. Support others and good will reciprocate. Chances are, your internal and even external business partners already know how great you are and they will already send thank you notes. Many people know it is valuable to highlight when somebody is doing a great job and I honestly think it’s good business practice, however, not everybody has it in them. If that is not the case, and you have not received such “public” feedback yet, start by giving back first. Have people gone out of their way to help you on certain projects? Has your teammate really done a stellar job recently? Don’t let it go unnoticed and e-mail their manager with them in cc letting them know how valuable they are. This will help you build relationships and they will also return the favour in the future. Now, don’t start over-doing it and make sure to stay candid so it has a positive impact.
My approach to office politics is still through hard work, but acknowledging it and trying to use it in your favour and on your own terms. In the end, the trick for me is to combine your hard work and expertise with building a network that will bring you the exposure you need. People have to know you in order to promote you.