A spectator’s guide to office politics

As with any contact sport, you don’t have to play the game to appreciate its finer points.

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I was lousy at office politics when I was on the client side.

I had absolutely no interest in it. I didn’t want the corner office. I didn’t necessarily want more responsibility or a bigger team. I simply didn’t want to play the game.

That said, I have 20 years of “observing” office politics and have learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.

As a consultant, I often use this knowledge to my advantage. It helps to understand how to work a room in a big meeting (even if I’m not the one “working it”). It helps to know why my client can’t make the project move forward—because “Jerry” in marketing is stonewalling her through her boss.

So, I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it.

Here are some observations from a consultant’s viewpoint on how to navigate the complex world of office politics:

Rule No. 1: When it doubt, keep your head down and crank out good work on deadline.

Resist the urge to “grease the wheels,” to gossip, to badmouth your cube mate.

Just do your work, and do it well.

Rule No. 2: Let your colleagues gossip; you should focus on listening.

When your work friends are gossiping, listen.

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