Secrets to Winning at Office Politics: How to Get Things Done and Increase Your Influence at Work


Winning at office politics is the desire of every employee. Office politics is about who knows you and not what you know. It is crucial to understand and appreciate the fact that office politics are unavoidable and part of all human social interactions. 

I have always struggled with Office Politics.  My ability to succeed has always been in a direct relationship in my ability to master these skills.   When I look back over the past 30 years of my education and career, one theme always reappears. Every time I perform poorly in these skills I always suffer the consequences.   Office politics is about personal responsibility and NEVER about Blaming others. We can never be in control of everything at all times but we can always be in control over our perceptions, decisions, and actions.   Every time I have come to this conclusion I flourish and every time I forget, I flounder. I don’t want to over simply anything but I also don’t want to discount the role we play in our own self-destruction and self-deception.   

I enjoy practicing medicine now more than ever for a variety of reasons.   One of the main reasons second to personal development is the continuous mastery of office politics.   

“In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying so get in motion and grow.” – Lou Holtz

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To understand the secrets of winning at office politics we can use basketball as a metaphor. Here are the game highlights and insights from this informative lesson.  In researching this topic I came across this YouTube Video of an unknown author. I found his talk so compelling I thought I would share it with you and summarize it too.   

Also, please check out the Book Club section with the summary of the amazing book, Secrets to Winning at Office Politics by Mari G. McIntyre. 

What Causes Office Politics?

  • Scarcity of resources: We don’t have enough people. Most of the time, we have unreal, unreasonable due dates and deadlines.
  • A too competitive workplace: Everybody’s competing for the next promotion, and there are not enough to go around.
  • Subjective performance standards: It’s quite sad that the performance appraisals we use are fairly subjective, not objective.
  • Unclear job descriptions: Sometimes, we do not know what our job is.
  • Emotional insecurity at work: Sometimes, the lack of high emotional intelligence causes office politics. To boost your emotional intelligence, read Emotional Intelligence at work by Daniel Goldman.

Applying Basketball Techniques in Office Politics:

  • Get to know the people with whom you work with: Show genuine and authentic interest in getting to know your colleagues. 
  • Don’t be a ball hog: Learn how to pass the ball and give the spotlight to others. 
  • If you see your teammates struggling, help them.
  • Crash the boards: Push towards getting the rebound.  How? Look for ways to help by volunteering for meetings, tasks, committees, improvement projects, etc.   Be over-prepared for everything. 
  • Keep your hands up at all times. Don’t be afraid to take up unpopular projects that everyone else shies away from.  This will skyrocket you to the top of the roster.   
  • Pay attention to what is happening on the court.  Who are the players? Who is the Boss and what are their preferences?  People like to be known just like you. What are the rules of the game and what rules are followed?   Who are the REAL power players or informal leaders? 
  • Scout out your competition: Don’t think for a second that you do not have competition.   If you are complacent don’t be surprised when you get passed if you let your skills lapse.  People KNOW what skills you have and don’t have! Think about your peer who is the best and the worst… if you know about them, they know about you.  
  • Make your free throws: Do yourself a favor, be well prepared for meetings, cases, clinic.   Give 10% more than the next person. This should be easy in today’s “work anemic” ethic.   
  • Seek out a veteran to help you: Find a mentor at all costs.  I can’t stress this enough. EVERYONE needs a mentor or coach.  I know many CEOs of very large corporations. What do they all have in common?  They all have a coach or mentor… ALL OF THEM!
  • Don’t turn the ball over: Don’t work harder, work smarter than everyone else.  
  • There is no garbage time at work.  Don’t goof-off and don’t give anyone an opportunity to accuse you of Dereliction of duty.  I know Surgeons, Anesthesiologists, Nurses and support staff waiting for someone to screw up just so they can point it out.  It has almost become a game of “who has screwed up this week.” Don’t be that person. 
  • Be a floor general: take charge when tough situations come up.  You don’t have to be the boss, manager, COO or director to take charge.   Be the person to take charge, own your mistakes and never blame. Everyone wants to blame everyone else for their problems.   It starts from within and not from without.   
  • Do post-game interviews: Control your story before others do.  Be your own public relations advocate and tell the truth. If you claim to be the best then you must also Be the claim. 
  • Shake hands at the end of the game: Even if you leave an organization, don’t burn bridges with anyone.  The world is completely connected and all tarnished relationships will haunt for life. 

Nine Habits of Politically Savvy People

  • Forget the gossip and tell the truth only.
  • Be engaged: Do your work with dedicated interest and loyalty.
  • Help Design/define clear business documents.
  • Please don’t pick on anybody when they are down.
  • Find a way of exposing the sharks at work: Report bad actors.
  • Never give the sharks an opportunity to get to you but pursuing excellence.
  • Make emotional deposits with people you work with.
  • Be known as a producer and not a politician.
  • Lift other people and forget failures.

Professional Mannerisms of Politically Savvy People

  • Dress a touch better than everyone else.
  • Work hard to take criticism.
  • Fight the urge to jump in with similar stories during conversations, Don’t “one-up.”
  • Learn to lead.
  • Always find time management strategies and stick with them.
  • Always engineer their work, time and attitude.
  • Scare people with their background notes: History, players, decisions .and know the “why, what where and when?”
  • Absorb hard knocks and keep going: 
    •  Be thick-skinned: Don’t Take Anything Personally.
    • Control your emotions, especially anger.
    • Listen objectively.
    • Take complaints as valuable feedback.
    • Watch and learn from people you admire to learn how to avoid and solve problems.

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude ”

Zig Zigler

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Professional Strategies to Winning at Office Politics:

  • Help your boss succeed even if you don’t like them.  If they fail, you fail.
  • Be loyal.
  • Praise your boss to the upper management if they perform well.
  • Borrow your boss’ slogans.
  • Present options.
  • Be visible.
  • Teach your boss a skill if they don’t know.
  • Don’t be part of the whining mass.   Complaining and Whining is the single easiest way to destroy your career and ability to be successful and affluent. 
  • Growth is key. Rise above all the noise.  
  • Be a team player.   The best teams win championships not the teams with the best players. 

Office Politics Summary:

Perfect practice makes perfect. Since office politics is like a basketball game, it takes practice to get better at it. Now that you have the secrets to winning at office politics. Go ahead and make it happen.  Take Massive Action Today.  

There are some amazing lessons here.   IF anyone knows the author I would like to give them proper credit and praise.   

If you think any of this advice is not applicable to Medicine please let me know but also be very clear as to why or why not.   I personally believe that it is very applicable and understand that greater problems need greater solutions.   

“Don’t wish it was easier wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge wish for more wisdom.” –Jim Rohn

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