Office Politics: How to Use Your Influence for Good

by | Feb 9, 2015

I never really liked office politics. I viewed it as something to avoid at all costs. What I’ve learned is that office politics are inevitable, but the ugly side of office politics doesn’t have to be. It’s actually an important tool for increasing our influence at work.

The fact is, office politics emerge whenever you form an organization where people hold positions of authority over others. Wikipedia defines office politics as “the use of power and social networking within an organization to achieve changes that benefit the organization or individuals within it.” (social networking in this context has nothing to do with tweeting 🙂 )

There’s been a lot of negative press, but it’s mostly because of individuals who use politics for their own self-interest. What you and I need to be aware of is that avoiding office politics can often hurt more than it helps. So, what does a person committed to strong Christian values do?

Here are a few thoughts to consider.

  1. Use your influence for good. All of us want to make a difference. We want to have a positive impact on others and the organizations we work for. But you’ll come up empty if you don’t engage in office politics. While power was traditionally based on your position in the hierarchy, today power is related more to one’s ability to influence others. Imagine if the majority of the people with the power were using it for good.
  2. Be a game-changer. As more people learn to navigate office politics by taking the high road, the more role models there will be and the less likely people pushing their own self-interest are to succeed. Each of us has the opportunity to increase positive momentum.
  3. Build relationships. In an HBR article “Office Politics is Just Influence by Another Name” written by Annie McKee, she writes, “Office politics is really just the art of influencing others so we can get stuff done at work.” Paul said, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. … To those not having the law I became like one not having the law … . I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 Paul isn’t advocating being a phony. He is advocating the power of demonstrating social awareness and empathy. When we understand what’s important to others, we can speak in ways that are meaningful to them so we can accomplish great things.

The book of Esther gives us a great example two people who learned how to engage in the politics of a foreign and often hostile empire so they could have a positive impact. Esther and Mordecai were exiles, and Esther was an orphan. Yet, by gaining insight into the Persian culture and learning to work within it, they went from no influence to having influence powerful enough to save a nation.

What can you do today to increase your influence?

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Catherine Gates

Catherine Gates is Executive Director of Women in the Marketplace, a nonprofit marketplace ministry that equips working women to confidently pursue their faith and career for the glory of God. She is also the author of The Confidence Cornerstone: A Woman’s Guide to Fearless Leadership. Learn more at womeninmarketplace.net.