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Why to Change Your Mindset About Office Politics Now

You know I’m a levelheaded guy but allow me this rant …

There are few things that sadden me more than when an ambitious, high-achieving client unknowingly acts to take him or herself out of consideration for a senior-level promotion.

Now, to be sure, we’re not all destined for the C-Suite … and not everyone even wants that. If you’re happy where you are, that’s excellent and I wish you only the best.

But, what I’m talking about here is when someone does really want that promotion, has worked hard and smart to merit it … and yet inadvertently behaves in a way to kill it.

I remember my client Pat, a Healthcare SVP describing the emotional costs of staying in place. Having to live with fewer opportunities to make a greater impact. Fewer opportunities to achieve his potential. And, fewer opportunities to garner some well-deserved recognition for making high-level contributions to the organization.

That hurts. Right?

I’ll tell you what else hurts … hard, financial costs.

In many markets the bump from SVP to EVP is worth between $50,000 – $200,000 in extra cash comp for just the first year. Moreover, move up any subsequent promotion(s) before eventual retirement. Mix in the ability to lock in greater retirement benefits and this adds up.

So, if you’re like many of your colleagues, getting this right is actually worth a quarter of a million to two million dollars over your career! Right?

What could you and your family do with that?!?!

Chew on that for a minute.

So, what’s the major violation holding people back that we’re talking about? It must be big. Stealing company resources? Engaging in some sort of financial scam? Selling confidential info to a competitor?

Nope. It’s less dramatic than that. A lot less.

The career-limiting infraction: “I don’t play office politics.”

Let me explain …

At least once a week, a coaching client will blame something at work that didn’t go his way on “office politics.” The conversation invariably sounds something like this:

Pat: “I can’t believe my boss Jennifer gave Rogers the promotion.”
Ephraim: “Why do you suppose she went to Rogers?”

Pat: “He’s a suck-up.”
Ephraim: “What do you mean?”
Pat: “He’s always getting himself time with the EVP’s.”

Ephraim: “How are your relationships with the EVP’s?”
Pat: “I don’t play office politics. That’s smarmy and self-aggrandizing. I want to be judged on the merits of my work.”

Ephraim: “And, so what do the execs think of your work?
Pat: “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure they even see it. Or when they do, that they even know I’m the one who produced it. For all I know, they think it’s Jennifer’s.”


It’s frustrating for my VP Pat because, in his mind, he’s getting punished for doing the right thing. He’s just motivated by doing good work, but, in his thinking, it’s the System that’s messed up. It encourages people to glad-hand and backslap. Flash over substance.

On the other hand, it’s frustrating to ME because he’s hurting HIMSELF (and HIS FAMILY and HIS FUTURE!) while he’s missing the point almost entirely.

I’m reminded of the old aphorism about holding onto resentment … that it’s like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.

A radical reframe of mindset is in order.

Here goes … It’s not about politics … IT’S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS.

Think: whom you know, how well you know them, and how valuable you are to them. Simply put, you need to have strong relationships to get things done in any organization.

Permit me to provoke you, here. Calling it “politics” is no less than self-indulgent. First, you get to feel morally superior to your colleagues and bosses. For goodness sake, you’d never do that because it would be beneath your principles. Second, it allows you to let yourself off the hook for delivering results when you think others are just “working the system.”

See what I mean?

What’s worse is that it’s reinforcing. When others seemingly keep getting rewarded for their proactive relationship-building behavior, you feel marginalized. Senior leaders – if they notice you at all – pick up on the distance you convey and feel judged by you. After all, what kind of credible leader would allow substance-less politics to sway their decision-making?

Senior leaders are not seeking quiet, principled purists to welcome into their ranks …

Instead, they are looking for VP’s who unselfconsciously carry the banner with them and instill confidence in the organization and its direction. They can’t know if that’s you unless you have lots of productive time working to solve problems together.

I’ve never quoted Cher before, but here goes: “SNAP OUT OF IT!”

Here’s what to do instead of blaming office politics:

  1. Understand the need to build and manage relationships strategically to succeed in an organization.
  2. Map your organization’s context, initiatives and people.
  3. Develop empathy-based profiles of colleagues’ behaviors, engagement, senses, and needs.
  4. Connect to form mutually satisfying relationships.
  5. Throw your hat in the ring for desirable assignments.

So, change your mindset, stop blaming office politics and get back on track to achieve what you deserve.

It’s your time.

Want to learn additional, useful, immediately actionable approaches and tools to get back on the fast-track?

Join me for my FREE ONLINE SEMINAR: “The Executive Ascension Method: How to earn your C-Suite promotion … without sacrificing your integrity, sanity or family”

In it you’ll discover how to:

Wield executive influence! Learn a technique to master C-Suite language so that you can be valued as both a strategic thinker and a first-rate implementer at the same time

Build executive profile! Learn to apply a proven tool to navigate your organization to be selected for the next high-visibility assignment … without playing politics

Accelerate your promotability! Learn the framework for how to be indispensable to your boss as a key resource, partner, and valued confidant


Click Here To Claim Your Spot Now!




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