On the job : Sunny side of office politics

Office politics is not a bad thing. It is a good thing. We think of office politics as a bad thing because the good guys don’t make use of it often enough, leaving the field to the bad guys. That’s what needs to change. The good guys need to become better skilled in office politics (while refusing to stoop to use of the tactics employed by bad guys and thereby compromising personal integrity, something good guys all value more than career advancement).

To thrive in the new economy, today’s worker needs to think of himself as a small business — You, Inc — gaining ‘market share’ as he progresses up the career ladder. Office politics is the term used to refer to the marketing efforts each You, Inc, employs to compete with all the others.

We all have experienced bad marketing practices. So we all feel a temptation at times to dismiss all marketing as manipulative. In reality, though, such marketing serves a good purpose by making us aware of products and services that enrich our lives. The same is true of office politics — the marketing arm of You, Inc. A worker who has a good ‘product’ to sell is doing a good thing by employing smart self-promotion strategies. It is only when those who have something valuable to offer become skilled at marketing themselves that those who rely on manipulative strategies find themselves losing the edge that those sorts of strategies sometimes provide.

There is hope that in days to come the term ‘office politics’ will lose its stigma and more middle-class workers will become better skilled at marketing themselves to employers in forthright and compelling ways.