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The Secret Handshake by Kathleen Kelley Reardon

This article was inspired by Kathleen Kelley Reardon's The Secret Handshake . If you enjoy this article then consider purchasing or borrowing the book.

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How Politics Can Advance Your Business Career

“Power is at the heart of politics and may indeed be the heart of politics.”

Contrary to popular belief, your skills and hard work are not enough to garner a position at the senior executive level. Though senior executives will choose among the most talented of employees, using politics to your advantage will separate you from the competition.

Most people avoid discussing politics. They may even perceive such conversations as rude, but achieving and maintaining power depends on your political maneuvering.

Before you attempt to deal with politics, determine which of four levels of politics your organization evinces. The four levels are as follows:

  1. “Minimally politicized” – Few companies behave like this, but when they do, you don’t want to dabble in politics, as executives and employees frown on such practices.
  2. “Moderately politicized” – Though politics occur in the workplace, the company as a whole discourages this behavior.
  3. “Highly politicized” – Advancements depend on getting into the “in” crowd. Hierarchal organization guarantees that connections equate success.
  4. “Pathologically politicized” – From opening to closing time, you should experience paranoia at such an institution. No one is safe from the politics of this kind of company.

If you are used to political maneuvering, you will be better suited to a workplace where political conflict holds sway. If politics turn you off, minimally and moderately political businesses are better for you. Understand your own preferences on the matter and learn to adapt if your employment depends on it.

There are 11 unique political strategies you can use to advance yourself in the more politically structured organizations:

  1. “Study the terrain” – Consider the potential reactions of others before making political statements. Understand the power structure around you.
  2. “Seek balance” – Create plans that further your own agenda without interfering with those of your superiors.
  3. “Get noticed” – You have to be your own self-promoter. Don’t take it for granted that others will notice your accomplishments without your help.
  4. “Reciprocate” – When someone helps you out, you should be prepared to do the same for them. Go out of your way to help your superiors and peers.
  5. “Make important connections” – Determine who are the best connections for you and develop relationships with these people.
  6. “Steer and deflect” – Expert command of language gives you the power in conversations. Rather than giving hasty answers to questions, use your own questions to deflect the attention from you. Develop politically correct responses to awkward questions.
  7. “Fake left, go right” – Take advice from your friends in high places and don’t let rivals trick you.
  8. “Increase your power” – Make yourself an indispensable asset to your organization.
  9. “Choose your battles” – Some debates aren’t worth winning. Avoid and diffuse confrontations. Use honest apologies when you are wrong, but don’t beat yourself up too much.
  10. “Think gray” – The middle ground has its uses, allowing you to see both sides of an argument.
  11. “Negotiate” – Understand your opposition’s views and have open conversations with rivals.

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