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Many promising executives derail sometime during their careers, often because they weren’t very good at office politics.

Not playing the political game is often seen as a good thing, even a badge of honor. Some managers see it as proof of their integrity. They are going to succeed because of job performance alone.

They couldn’t be more wrong. Research finds that a person’s political skills are key to building a successful career—for the good of both themselves and their company. When talented executives combine a knowledge of what their company needs with an ability to get things done, everyone benefits. Conversely, when a promising career falters because of poor political skills, companies have to spend time and money finding a replacement, and performance suffers in the meantime.

Being politically savvy is not about pushing others down or being untruthful to advance your own cause. Instead, it means building networks—relationships—with people inside and outside your company who can provide useful information and assistance. It means not picking fights over issues that aren’t critical. It means informing others in the company about your contributions and accomplishments, and asking for advice and help, particularly from those senior to you. Self-serving? Sure. But there’s nothing wrong with that. If you are going to make a difference, you need to have power.

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Do you want to learn how to gain power in your organization? Read Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t.

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