Some of us are good at office politics, some not. When I was a careerist, I often said that I refused to play that game, that office politics were not for me. In truth, if there are more than two people in an office, there will be office politics, and you’d better figure out how to play.
In the best of circumstances, office politics is a specialized form of communication, something you can get good at. It is a way of communicating fairly about projects, giving (rather than withholding) information, building consensus to get work done rather than backbiting, and playing nicely with others (often called working in teams).
In real life, we aren’t always loving, generous, and open-minded. We want to have our way, we want to take the credit, we want to win and get the raise.
In the worst of circumstances, office politics is forgetting ethical restraints, putting our wants ahead of our needs, and the needs of others. In the worst of office politics we forget one of the basic rules of office behavior–we can hate someone, we can wish them ill, as long as we keep all those thoughts to ourselves. Out loud, in the office and out, we have to treat everyone with respect. Treating people we don’t like with respect is actually a brilliant move. You never know whose team you will wind up on, or who will become your boss. Treating people with respect gives you a bigger field of colleagues who will recommend you for a better job when you need it.
Not everyone is cut out for corporate life. Entrepreneurs, visionaries, and highly creative people can often do better on their own, may prefer to carry all the responsibility and get all the glory. There’s no shame in owning your own business and doing well. You’ll still need communication skills, but that comes with every career.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach and trainer who teaches people communication skills.