“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” – Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones
Thankfully, the stakes are not quite so high in the workplace: failure does not lead to death. You can actually just move to another company if things go south.
Still, though, you have to do a fair bit of maneuvering in the workplace if you want to ascend the corporate ranks (which is pretty much the working world’s equivalent to Cersei’s “game of thrones”). To do that maneuvering successfully, you’ll need political expertise — which may be just as important as, if not more important than, your technical skills. According to research from Florida State University professor Pamela Perrewé, “a person rarely gets promoted without having developed strong political skills.”
Whether you are an up-and-coming millennial or a maturing Generation X professional, understanding the political machinations of your workplace will be key to outwitting your peers and landing the promotions you desire.
Of course, not everyone wants to move into management. But, if you do, and you are ready to win the workplace game of thrones, then here are three tips to help you climb the corporate hierarchy.
1. Find an Influential Mentor
During your journey to the top, you’ll need to accept some guidance from a benevolent power broker who has been there and done that, with respect to ascending the company’s ranks. Seeking and accepting such guidance will accelerate your own personal development, improving your judgment and decision-making.
It also stands to reason that because your mentor is an experienced member of the upper echelons of the company, they can act as a powerful political ally. Studies show that candidates who are recommended by influential people are much more likely to be invited to interviews and land jobs. If your mentor vouches for you, your chances of landing the promotion you crave skyrocket. Similarly, a study carried out at Sun Microsystems found that employees who were mentored were promoted five times more often than employees who were not mentored.
2. Get Noticed For the Right Things
Do some of your peers seem to be the golden boys or girls of the company? Do these peers have a knack for getting noticed by senior managers and leaders?
That’s because they know — either by instinct or by paying attention to their surroundings – what to do to get noticed in the firm. What makes someone a golden employee often depends on what the managers and leaders at a given company value, but one of the most commonly valued traits in employees is entrepreneurialism — that is, the willingness to take risks, move out of your comfort zone, and take on projects outside of your job description. Being entrepreneurial also involves spotting opportunities to improve some aspects of the business and presenting potential improvements to decision makers and influencers. A study from Millennial Branding found 58 percent of managers are either “very willing or extremely willing” to support entrepreneurial employees, making entrepreneurialism a great way to get noticed at most companies.
Another quality that impresses managers, according to the Millennial Branding study, is “being a subject matter expert.” Sixty-five percent of employers surveyed said subject matter expertise was important to career advancement. So, another great way to get noticed is to be able to give sound specialist advice at times when it is most needed.
3. Hone Your Influencing and Impression-Management Skills
The Millennial Branding study cited above found that managers often looked for soft skills when promoting millennials, rather than hard skills or digital tech savvy. Simply putting your head down and grinding it out is not enough: you need to demonstrate your soft skills if you want to land a promotion.
Professor Perrewé of FSU outlines four skills that define political adeptness: social astuteness, interpersonal influence, networking ability, and the ability to convey the impression of sincerity. You’ll need to practice these skills and use them regularly if you are to succeed in the workplace games of thrones.