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Jul 27, 2016

During election season, it’s hard not to think about politics in the office. Often viewed as negative, and associated with being false or inauthentic; office politics doesn’t have to be a dirty word. In fact, those that are politically savvy will find they are more successful. It’s important to remember, however, that there is a distinct difference between being politically savvy and traditional “office politics.” Consequently, managers who are able to identify politically savvy employees will find they are able to build a much more proficient company culture and boost their bottom line.

What it means

What does it mean to be politically savvy in the office? It involves the sincere use of skills, behaviors and qualities to be more effective in your day-to-day job, and for long-term success. It’s about getting to the next level without putting your colleagues down, but rather building your team up to ensure success.

As leaders, it’s our job to be on the look-out for these politically savvy employees as we’re hiring, and within our existing workforce. With this in mind, what does the politically savvy employee look like?

  • Remap the organization chart: They know it’s not always about who has the fanciest title. Sometimes it’s those behind the scenes who are the most respected and have the most authority. It’s more important to grow a relationship with a strategic individual contributor than with a high ego senior vice president
  • Understand the informal network: They take the time to assess their work environment to see who gets along with whom. They are able to identify who has trouble getting along with others and where the cliques might reside. They don’t make judgements, but rather understand the layout and interrelationships and leverage it for a speedy delivery.
  • Build relationships: They get to know everyone without aligning themselves with any one group or pigeon-holing themselves into one hierarchy. The relationships they build are based on trust and respect. It’s these relationships that will help them keep a finger on the pulse of the organization and open doors for career opportunities.
  • Listen carefully: The ability to listen and listen well, often sets politically savvy employees apart from their colleagues. It’s one thing to listen and come up with a reply, but it’s another to listen and actually understand, pull deeper meanings and hear underlying messages. Those that possess this ability are critical when it comes to propelling a company forward.
  • Make the most of their network: Employees who understand the importance of not only building, but also strategically leveraging their networks will be able to gain access to information, bring in new business, making themselves, the company, and perhaps even their boss look good.
  • Neutralize negative play: Negativity can be detrimental. Those that are politically savvy know to stay away from those who bring negativity to the work environment. They know that negative people usually don’t think much of their talents and as a result they feel they need to rely on aggressive politicking to get ahead. However negativity can help identify big blind spots for what can go wrong, it is important to leverage that as a strength for moving forward.
  • Govern their own behavior: Politically savvy employees know they are their own worst enemy and their biggest ally. While it can be easy to get caught up in the stereotypical office politics, like spreading gossip, those who are able to rise above interpersonal conflicts and maintain integrity at all times will be much more successful.

Why this is important for your business

For employers, hiring politically savvy employees can boost your bottom line. The politically savvy have the skills to succeed; they work hard and are passionate about what they do, and they get things done using the network they have. They have the ability to listen, pick up on social cues and build relationships. And because your employees are really the ones on the frontlines of a company, interacting with customers and representing a brand, savvier employees can result in greater ROI.

For employees, the ability to be politically savvy in the workplace can boost their position in the company. Not only are these skills critical to personal development, but those who master what it is to be politically savvy will be rewarded with promotions and opportunities for career growth.

Unlike the general election that the US will witness this November, when it comes to politically savvy employees there doesn’t have to be a winner and a loser. When employees focus on engaging in the right type of politics, they achieve more success for the company and more fulfilling career growth personally. As leaders, it’s our job to help our workforce understand the difference between petty office politics, ego, and political savviness. As we embrace the positive side of politics, we’ll foster a more collaborative, productive workforce and culture, to drive greater organizational success.