If I could choose one skillset that I have not mastered yet in my career so far, it would be office politics. I dislike politics for so many reasons: the manipulation, butt-kissing, stealing credit, publicly pointing out others’ inadequacies, favoritism, and so on can be hard to watch. Yet, I understand the importance of this skill if one is ever to advance past a certain point in their career. Office politics is everywhere, even in a company as small as two people.
Since I am not an expert, I came across a good article, 4 Steps to Mastering Office Politics, by Bill Gentry and Jean Brittain Leslie. I agree with all of their points, but that doesn’t mean I am willing to follow them. I take particular issue with the first step that says to “Build Strategic Networks.”
You see, I work in HR. To me, that means that my role is to support ALL employees and managers equally, regardless of their level or perceived importance in the company. Am I supposed to prioritize people’s needs due to their status? Oh, you are a factory associate, so you will get a response or support in a few days or weeks or never. But wait….Since you are a Director or VP, I will drop everything immediately and cater to your every need. I believe in building relationships with as many people as I can so that I earn their respect and trust.
Now, we have all watched certain colleagues who are non-responsive or passive continue to get promoted. We wonder how in the world they keep moving up. That is office politics at its very best. They know who the “important” decision makers are in the company and they prioritize them and always put their needs at the top, while everyone else is ignored. Because of this, they are perceived as action-oriented go-getters. They create as many opportunities to schmooze and get in front of the higher ups as possible, while ignoring the people who are “beneath” them and their agenda.
I believe that every single person in an organization makes a contribution and should be valued. Therefore, it’s just not who I am to prioritize who I support or whom I build relationships with strategically. That’s likely a major reason why I haven’t surpassed the HR Manager role in my career, and that’s okay with me. I need to honor my personal values and live with myself, and I strive to do that.