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I've had several jobs post-graduation already and whereas I always exceed expectations when it comes to my performance (i.e. shown expertise/ skills in the field I'm active in), I feel I could work on my office politics skills. Till now I just avoided all politics. I hate politics. But several times I even felt victim to the office politics: I was seen as threatening and humiliated/ treated aggressively/ forced to quit for someone to save their face, etc.

It can be that in certain industries (IT?) that's not so important, but in mine (let's say finance) it's everything.

What do I mean precisely?

  • Building coalitions, making people support me
  • Exerting influence, "making people do what I want them to" (logical arguments work at times... But frequently they don't)
  • Being considered knowledgeable and being liked, being the "go-to" person, being invited to participate in projects and initiatives

I'm an introvert. A sociable, outspoken but an analytical introvert. I like having time to think. I don't like being in a crowd and feel like an alien among loud people competing with not always not exactly fair means. I mention that since I believe it makes navigating human relationships slightly more difficult.

What are the ways to get better in the area of office politics? My goal is 1) to avoid problems I sometimes had in the past (being bullied, excluded, etc.) and 2) achieving a career progression.

I honestly even searched for courses but haven't found anything at my location.

  • When you say "get better" what exactly do you want to accomplish? Some examples would help. – sf02 Sep 18 at 19:35
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    "The only way to win the game is to not play it." If you are good, and you treat others with respect, and you're helpful when you can be helpful, you will achieve all those things you wish to achieve. – Julie in Austin Sep 18 at 19:37
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    @JulieinAustin, I really wish this was true. But unfortunately, it's not true in my field. Those who've achieved most are extremely good at playing the game... (But can pretend they are not playing it ;). And after losing several times because of not playing along, I really don't feel like losing again. – BigMadAndy Sep 18 at 19:39
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    And at the risk of answering in a comment, I wanted to point out something I feel is missing in the existing answers: much of "winning" politics is based on understanding what other people want. What they are trying to achieve, and what their motivating factors are. The deceptive side of politics is usually about manipulating people and/or hiding motivations. It can be much easier to disarm or avoid those hurtful behaviors if you take the time to reflect on how other people are motivated. And when you know what other people are truly motivated by, it can be easier to have a positive outcome – dwizum Sep 19 at 14:54
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    @BigMadAndy - There is "politics" and there is being a good co-worker. If you want to know how to be a good co-worker, the answer is simple - be friendly and helpful. "Politics" is trying to "win" personally rather than trying to help the company, and your co-workers, "win". Focus on the business, and helping your co-workers do what is best for the business. – Julie in Austin Sep 21 at 6:24
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Politics isn't just about dirty, Machiavellian tricks. In fact that's a minority of it. It's about making friends and talking about your ideas, finding out what people want (and don't want) and looking for solutions where everyone wins.

If you trick or pressure someone into doing something they don't like once, they'll never help you again, and everyone else will be wary of dealing with you.

There are a couple of examples in Nikolas Means' excellent lecture about the building of the Eiffel tower where the designer found ways to solve objections to his plan that also made him significantly richer. If you're not interested in the story, there are a couple of book recommendations at the end. (I should add that the video is really about why engineers should care about politics, and the story of the tower is only illustrating his point)

  • I don't think what you described in the first paragraph has anything to do with "politics". "Politics" is about exercising control and influence over groups of people -- formally, governments and the people governed. The means may or may not be Machiavellian, but the formal definition is about exercising control and influence, not just being a nice person and a helpful co-worker. – Julie in Austin Sep 21 at 6:30
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My advice- do your job and document, documents, document. Save emails. Verify projects and expectations by email. Document successes. If your project fails, take your share of the responsibility.

I can’t help on networking and alliances. Make friends. Watch their back, do them favors be reliable and hope they reciprocate.

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If you want to get better the best thing you can do is get realistic practice.

One way I've done that is by getting involved in the board game Diplomacy (both online and in tournaments).

At first you're likely to wonder what a game could possibly have to do with office politics so I'll explain further:

You have seven players - each round secret negotiations take place where you have to build coalitions and influence others for you to reach your goals. Then at the end of negotiations, each players orders are read out simultaneously.

Since the game lasts a very long time (online games can go for days/weeks, tournament games easily take 6+ hours) people get emotionally invested and that effects their decisions and interactions with you.

While on the surface the game appears to be about dishonesty - it's really a game that teaches you about dealing with conflict in productive ways if you want to be successful.

I've found that in the couple years since I've started this hobby it has positively impacted my skills in influencing others and building coalitions in the workplace.

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