Even if you don’t consider yourself the Original SD (social distancer), if you feel squeamish about politicking in the workplace, you’re not alone.
Most people associate politicking with manipulating others to get what you want. As a consultant, executive coach, and educator, allow me to reorient your perspective: Imagine if politicking was actually about building healthy, mutually beneficial relationships with colleagues.
The purpose is not transactional but relational.
We advocate politicking by spreading goodwill, trust, and support in the workplace through building one-on-one relationships.
- Redefine Politicking For Yourself
Do a rush of fears come up when you think about politicking? Do you worry that people will think you’re conniving, slimy, smarmy, or only out for yourself? Let go of your outdated view of politicking as “if you give me this, I’ll give you that,” and instead adopt a mindset that politicking is about creating a win-win relationship with the other party.
- Build Rapport First
Politicking often feels bad because it lacks authenticity. Why would we expect anyone to support us if we haven’t invested the time to get to know them? When we like and trust people, it’s easier to not only ask for help but also to give it. And when others like and trust us, it’s not only easier for them to say ‘yes’ to our ask, it actually feels good. Before you make a request of someone, or try to gather support for a big idea, you need a solid foundation for the relationship(s). Do this by getting to know “them” (read: the people who you want to influence) by learning what they care about, sharing who you are, and proactively giving or offering help when you can.
- Understand there’s no “I” (or eyeroll) in team
If you bypass what someone cares about, and only focus on what you care about, you’re immediately going to damage your own credibility and cause the person to second-guess you. Make it clear, through your actions, that you care more about the “We” than the “Me.” When it comes to managers, they need to show that they can set aside their personal wants and preferences for the sake of what’s best for the team.
- Get To Know Those Above And Below You
It’s important to build relationships with everyone, including the people you manage, your boss and your boss’ boss. As you seek out people to connect with, consider those who are influential in your organization, those who can cheer you on, and those who can support you. We often forget that people who report to us or are below us in rank are just as important to our success as the people above or on par with us. If your team members don’t know who you are, what you care about, or just don’t like you, they’re not going to put in the extra effort to achieve or execute goals in a timely manner.
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- Be A Connector
Be clear about who you want to get to know and find ways to connect with them. Ask your boss or a colleague to make an introduction. Put in a request to attend a meeting that you know people on your list will be attending. When you connect, set up coffee or a cocktail (over Zoom or in person) to simply learn more about who this person is and what they care about. Be prepared to do the same for others when asked for an introduction or invite.
Join Executive Coach Will Craig at an upcoming webinar event, Developing Online Networking Skills for Career Advancement with PRMIA New York, to sharpen your online networking skills, hear from an expert of the risk management jobs most in demand, and practice those networking skills.
- Practice Giving Daily
Invest in practices that build up your reputation in the organization as someone who is generous, collaborative, welcoming, and supportive. Whenever you see an opportunity to help, step up and offer. In addition, mark times in your calendar for relationship-building activities. These don’t need to be fancy. Simply popping by a coworker’s office (or dropping them a DM in Slack) to check in, or sending a relevant article that made you think of them, is all it takes.
- Balance Responsibility And Rapport
Every work relationship has a set of responsibilities and a rapport. The responsibilities are what we feel obligated or are required to do by the nature of being in the relationship. The rapport is how we feel about the other person. For example, we may greatly enjoy the company of a colleague but be frustrated that they frequently turn in work late and are not proactive about informing you of changes to the timeline. In this case, the relationship is out of equilibrium. No matter how much you like them, you probably don’t trust them with additional responsibilities.
The same is true when the scales tip the other direction. You may have a colleague who is high performing in their work quality, but with whom you have little in common. You may offer opportunities to other colleagues whom you find more enjoyable to work with. To successfully politick, we need to deliver on both work responsibilities and have a healthy rapport. It is a combination of the actual work that we do, the results we deliver, and how our coworkers feel about us that determines whether they wholly respect and trust us.
At the end of the day, politicking is not about you. Sorry, yay, and whew. It’s about showing goodwill and caring about the other person’s agenda in order to also be able to bring in your own ideas and advance them together. It’s creating a win-win partnership.
In uncertain times like these, there’s truly no time like the present and/or a pandemic to recognize the need to form healthy alliances in the workplace, no matter how many feet apart we are!
Very TRUE-ly Yours,