In the words of the German novelist Thomas Mann, “Everything is politics.” While most people would say hard work is the sole ingredient for a successful career, in reality, good office politics are just as necessary. Getting good at office politics, in fact, may be the most important thing you can do to forward your career. Good office politics requires a sense of empathy, excellent time-management skills, and an outstanding ability to work as part of a team. People who are bad at office politics, no matter how great they are at their actual work, may find themselves stuck in dead-end careers with little explanation as to why they failed.
One of the primary realizations you must make when practicing good office politics is that it’s all about being nice. Not only must you be nice, you need to also understand your strengths and a high emotional intelligence. This will enable so you to more easily work to understand the struggles other people are undergoing so that you can offer them help in your most skilled areas. Getting to know people is one thing, but you must also spend even more time doing work to help that person. This may require that you perform your own job very efficiently so that you have the time to be nice in the first place. The first step is to reassess your relationship with office politics, get a better attitude towards them, and start looking for ways to be nice.
There is a growing amount of research showing that managers and coworkers alike value the social skills of colleagues even more than job skills. In other words, they want you to be more likable, even at the expense of your competence. As mentioned already, office politics is about being nice, and being nice makes you more likable. The more likable you are, the more competent you are perceived to be.
Being bad at office politics is an entirely internal affair. It is not about the people you work with but how you choose to deal with those people. Being empathetic makes you want to understand people; all people, not just those who are easiest to like. The challenge of becoming more empathetic and raising your emotional intelligence is teaching yourself how to get along with people you may not otherwise like, and understanding their motivations.
Finally, in order to excel at office politics, you must first care about office politics. If you want to help people, learn about people, and figure out their strengths and weaknesses, you must genuinely want to do so. Otherwise you will come off as fake, and at the end of the day, office politics is about authenticity and making real connections with everyone around you.