How to deal with work politics

By , last updated May 23, 2015

Best advice

The best advice if you are in a good company:

“At my last job, I went from being a temporary employee to working as a strategic adviser, in less than five years. Here is what has worked for me:

  • Be 100% transparent about your motives, which ought to stem from passion for the work you’re doing.
  • Help others and be generous with praise and credit. You’ll get much more in return.
  • Be fearless about talking to other people in the company, be it other teams, your boss’s boss, or the CEO him or herself. Just friendly conversations (and a few concise words on what you’re working on or what you’re passionate about) will open all kinds of doors.
  • Keep confidential things confidential. People you work with will tell you things that they don’t want shared. Take this seriously.
  • Work really fucking hard.

I think this is a far more effective (and fulfilling) approach to politics. Make yourself known for passion, hard work, trust, and clear communication, and you will go far!”

In the same time keep in mind that it’s the long game. A part of it is realizing if hard work and passion for your job result in negative outcomes, you’re in a sick workplace culture and you’re best to find a new opportunity.

There are really toxic environments out there, where you would run afoul of an emotional/interpersonal minefield, just by being your authentic self. Best avoid those places altogether.

Also, you will make mistakes. But in the long run, you’ll go farther and be happier by being passionate, open, and trustworthy than by being some kind of Machiavellian douche.

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There’s a golden rule element to this, too. Wouldn’t you rather work around people like this?

*Funny story from the guy with best advice:

“I was once at a five person software start-up where we all worked out of a one big room in a dilapidated house. I was really excited about a feature that I had just coded and wanted to show one of the founders who was in the same room. He listened to me politely, and said “oh cool” or something. Later the other founder pulled me aside and instructed me to never talk to that founder directly about the product because he wasn’t interested in hearing my opinion. Imagine being in a big room with five people and not being allowed to talk to one of them. Talk about a red flag.”

Smiling without stating your opinion

“I always have to remind myself, that in general most people want the best for themselves first, then perhaps others which causes me to smile and nod as if im agreeing with everything they say. Without actually stating either way. Most always works.”

There is a side effect of that (Not good or bad), because if you never state your opinion on anything and just seemingly agree with everyone, to some people you will seem less important, not as smart, more a follower than a leader. Followers can be carried to high-ranks by their leaders. However, once they are in the high rank, they need to start leading and stop agreeing with everything.

That’s what happens in ANY politics. The leaders are the ones who voice disagreements but strategically and avoiding getting everyone to hate you. If you pick every battle and push your opinion on it, you will end up getting everyone to hate you because there’s bound to be disagreements philosophically.

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However, a good leader can pick the RIGHT battles and push their opinions and convince others while avoiding getting stuck in trivial arguments. A president for example, has to pick the few KEY issues to define his legacy and stand firm on it.


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