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I'm a an employee in the UK with almost 3 years experience in the software sector.

I think I'm pretty naive at office politics and at building certain type of office relationship. I believe there must be politics somewhere in my department but I struggle to recognize it. This makes hard for me to understand what other are thinking. How can I improve my political skills? How do I recognize and defend against it? I am sure I am missing an important part of my personal development not being aware of the surrounding.

Thank you

Also see this questions Is there a way to NOT participate in office politics and still be successful?

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    This question is too broad--books have been written on this subject. – user45590 Jun 3 '16 at 11:47
  • True, however I appreciate more people opinions and experiences from the real world. Also I think this is a good community full of meaningful replies so I think it's the best place to ask. – Lorenzo Belli Jun 3 '16 at 13:03
  • It is a good community to get answers to specific questions on this topic. And it is a good sentiment to want to get advice about this. But as it is written, it is too broad to be useful and is probably going to be closed. Perhaps you can think of a more focused question (or several separate questions) to ask? Is there a specific problem/situation that made you start thinking about this issue? – user45590 Jun 3 '16 at 13:06
  • Yes @dan1111 I have some specific situation but the scope of that question would be very limited. I suspect someone is using communication skills or non working achievement to appear better. Do you have specific books to suggest? The choice is huge. – Lorenzo Belli Jun 3 '16 at 16:32
  • Consider asking in The Workplace Chat if you want to solicit input about such a broad topic or get help with crafting a question about it that is on-topic. – Lilienthal Jun 4 '16 at 11:48
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There are three key individuals/group you should focus on initially:

  1. The Lynchpin - This is that person involved with just about all the basic workings of the company. It could be the receptionist, someone's assistant, the office manager or even a janitor (It you're a teacher, you'll know what I mean.). Be nice to this person. Don't even think about looking down on them. If they really wanted to, they could make your life Hell.
  2. Your Supervisor - Did deep and get to know what your boss really expects out of you. If he wants things done fast at the expense of a little sloppiness, work a little faster than you would like. Know which projects take priority. When you're valuable to your boss, he will fight to keep you and bring you along as he gets promoted. Don't even think of trying to make this person look like a failure. You'll regret it.
  3. Your Team - Get along and make every effort to contribute. Do a little extra. Volunteer occasionally for one of those tasks everyone hates. It's not that you have to get on the good side of any one of these people, but you want some type of consensus that you're good for the team.

Without making these solid connections, it will be counterproductive to try and focus too much on other department heads or the CEO. Those relationships will take time and are a lot more productive when you get positive comments from the big 3.

You may discover that your boss is not affective at office politics either. This is a problem because you need him. If there is a chance to move to a more strategic area, take that opportunity.

Also think about advancement inside or outside the company if you must. It is difficult to be influential in any organization of you're not seen as successful. We don't like to admit it, but money talks. If you're willing to low-ball you value to the company, others will as well. Know what you're worth and don't be afraid to be paid accordingly.

Many companies have social occasions. If people meet outside of work, get involved. Don't eat lunch alone. Help pull others out of their shell. It's human nature that people will like you the more they get to know you. It builds trust.

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    I want to keep this post and read it again every day. Thank you! – Lorenzo Belli Jun 3 '16 at 23:09
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Office politics is nothing more than interpersonal relations with a business twist.

  • You can read books about it. This is probably worth an answer of it's own. There are many, many, many. Go grab some, most are worth reading.
  • You can go to the same courses managers go to. It's not witchcraft. This will enable you to spot their hollow phrases as what they are. Manipulation. However, that will only teach you to spot the bad ones. Good ones will use these courses as a start and build on it. That is hard to detect.
  • As an alternative, I suggest board or card games. Sounds weird? As a software developer, you are trained to think straight and logical. If you play games, you probably enjoy games that are straight and logical. Like chess. There is no trickery or treachery in chess. Or maybe DOOM. All is open. The better player wins. Politics is not like this. Politics is sneaky, backstabbing business. But you can actually experience this in a sandbox with games that make being a scheming, filthy liar the optimal strategy. You will need to read your fellow players and manipulate them and in the end it's all good fun you can get up from the table and be friends again. Take Battlestar Galactica as an example of a game where multiple people have to work together and one gets assigned by the game to be the traitor that brings it all down. You need to read other peoples actions and behaviour to find out who is who in the game and win. Office politics -if you want to play- is not much different. Identify allies, identify the enemy, take action. Make sure you play with lots of different people, because after a while you will know your friends too well to get any new ideas.

Obviously those three things are not exclusive. You can do all of it. Personally, I had most fun doing #3, but seeing how #1 and #2 influence your ability to do #3 well is worth experiencing, too.

  • That's a very useful insight, thank you! I really like the suggestion of following managers courses, I'll look for them now. Do you think it's even possible to 'practice' politic in some way? – Lorenzo Belli Jun 3 '16 at 16:31
  • @LorenzoBelli You could practice social skills in any environment that is social. A sports club, user group, online-gaming-guild, whereever people gather there are politics. More at some places, less at others. Pick a place that is safe to fail for you and go practice. That's what I like about games that make sure the bad boy is decided by the game: no guilt, all fun, you can be an manipulative liar and still be friends with the people afterwards because everyone is on the same page: this was just for the game. – nvoigt Jun 3 '16 at 16:52
  • That's surprising, what do you reref as office politics is the same as social skills? That would explain a LOT. – Lorenzo Belli Jun 3 '16 at 23:06

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