Guest Post by Bonnie Marcus, author of The Politics of Promotion.
Politics is all about relationships, and it’s critical to build and nurture relationships with people who can positively impact your career. Be aware that politics rules and there are constant changes in the workplace dynamics that can trip you up if you aren’t aware of them. Although the facts about office politics may be very frustrating, they must be understood for your success.
Embrace the politics, whatever they are, and pay special attention to the reality of your workplace. How are decisions made? Who influences those decisions? What are the unwritten rules? What does it take to get promoted?
There are informal networks within the company that have power and influence over all decisions.
The power and influence isn’t always determined by the organizational chart. There are informal networks, sometimes referred to as the ‘Old Boys Club’, that have the ear of senior management. They don’t necessarily occupy the top of the organizational chart, but don’t be fooled. They still have a great deal of power over decisions that impact the direction of the company and your career.
These decisions are most often made in informal settings outside the office, over drinks after work or on the golf course. That’s when the brainstorming and discussion takes place that results in major decisions.
The informal power networks are extremely difficult to penetrate (especially for women).
Women have traditionally been excluded from these informal networks. This fact makes it more difficult for women to impact the decision making process. Typically, they aren’t invited to the informal meeting before the meeting or the meeting after the meeting where key decisions are made.
This is certainly frustrating if you’re an outsider to these networks, because it means you can only react to decisions and not be proactive in the process.
Politics can make or break your career.
This fact may be the most difficult to accept, especially for those people who believe in a meritocracy. Many of us believe that we will be rewarded for our hard work and talent. After all, we succeeded in school because of our diligence. But the rules in the workplace are different. It’s not a true meritocracy. It’s not a level playing field.
In order to be successful, you need to not only do the hard work, perhaps even extra work, but also create visibility and credibility for yourself. Otherwise, you run the risk of remaining invisible in a crowded and competitive environment. Your performance and your political savvy are the key to getting ahead and staying ahead.
A longer version of this post went live on 1/19/15 at forbes.com.
Bonnie Marcus is the author of The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead (Wiley, March 2015). Learn more by visiting politicsofpromotionbook.com, or pick up a copy on Amazon.