Sunday, August 15, 2010

Secrets to Winning at Office Politics - Part 2

[This was originally posted at]

Following up on my previous post, here are several good quotes from the other chapters of the very good book, Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.

Chapter 4: Political Psych 101: Allies and Adversaries

  • "Positive relationships build political capital." (pg. 53)
  • "Allies can be grouped into three categories: Friends, Partners, and Connections." (pg. 55)
  • "colleagues usually judge your personality and your competence separately." (pg. 55)
  • "Those who loudly complain that 'it's who you know' are usually the same ones who never take the initiatives to get to know anyone." (pg. 59) --> as an introverted hermit, this hits home with me.
  • "adversaries fall into three groups: focused, emotional, and vengeful" (pg. 63) --> you want to be aware that someone who seems adversarial because they're just focused on their goal is not necessarily out to get you personally.
  • " is not an adversary - [they're] simply a difficult person." (pg. 67)
  • "Usually, the most effective containment strategy [with adversaries] is to increase your leverage." (pg. 68)

Chapter 5: Political Games: Moves and Countermoves

  • "Political games re played for emotional rewards" (pg. 83)
  • "Political game players always have a socially acceptable explanation for everything they do." (pg. 83)

Chapter 6: How to commit political suicide

  • "If you want to commit political suicide, simply start engaging in any behavior that consumes a disproportionate share of management's time and attention." (pg. 107)
  • "Once people arrive at a conclusion, they unconsciously continue to gather evidence that supports their opinion." (pg. 109)
  • "There are four common causes of career destruction: (1) poorly controlled emotions, (2) a victim mentality, (3) self-centered foals; and (4) foolish reactions to change." (pg. 110)
  • "Many political suicides are so caught up in their own concerns or delusions that when the ax falls, they are totally shocked." (pg. 121)
  • "It's a heckuva lot easier to blame somebody else." (pg. 123)
  • "if your colleagues are happily  and productively engaged while you're fuming with rage, then you need to take a closer look at yourself." (pg. 124)
  • "When someone indicates that your behavior is a problem, don't automatically reject that possibility." (pg. 126)
  • "When you are trying to recast your image, remember that others will not immediately notice the change in your behavior. If you're waiting for the applause, it may seem awfully quiet for a while." (pg. 127)
  • "if you're not the problem, but people think you are, the political effect is unfortunately the same." (pg. 127)

Chapter 7: Power, Power, Who has the Power?

  • Don't confuse "power" with "authority".
  • "... any strength, carried too far, becomes a weakness." (pg. 137)
  • "Here are some questions to consider in determining a person's power level: ... Do they talk more about the past or the future? ... Who can they go see without an appointment? ..." (pg. 137)
  • "Some timid souls, fearing that they will be perceived as pushy, overbearing, or insensitive, simply give their power away." (pg. 138)
  • "If you want to look ridiculous, just try using power that you don't have." (pg. 140)
  • On pg. 147, the author presents a 2x2 "Power Grid":
    • High level of position and high degree of influence --> Power Players
    • High level of position and low degree of influence --> Empty suits
    • Low level of position and high degree of influence --> Persuaders
    • Low level of position and low degree of influence --> Weaklings
  • "An organization's culture is largely determined by the beliefs, values, and preferences of the Power Elite... you must adjust to the culture established by the reigning Power Elite. There is not one chance in a million that you are going to change it." (pg. 149)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

BOOK: Secrets to Winning at Office Politics - Part 1

[This was originally posted at]

I am more of a clumsy walrus than a suave politician, so I was fascinated with the book Secrets to Winning at Office Politics. The author conveys her points with hard-hitting stories, 2x2 windows (to show the whole context), and explicit principles. Probably one of the five best books I've read.

At least twice each chapter, I smacked myself in the head, saying "D'oh - that's what I did wrong in that situation". A general theme of the book is that politics aren't necessarily dirty and corrupt - having good political skills can actually be a service to your coworkers because you can be easier to work with and help them achieve their goals.

There were so many good quotes, that I'm splitting it into multiple blog posts.

Chapter 1: Politics is not a dirty word

  • "Our hope was that we could keep him from destroying his career."
  • "...keep them from becoming their own worst enemy" (pg. xvii)
  • "'politics' is what naturally happens whenever people with different goals, interests, and personalities try to work together." (pg 3)
  • "...not everyone is interested in promotions. Autonomy, security, responsibility, skill development, challenge, and interesting work are a few of the other rewards that people often hope to find through their jobs." (pg 5)
  • "'s pretty tough to find tutoring in office politics." (pg 6)
  • You must be able to answer the question: "How would you like things to be different?" (pg 7)
  • "Wishing is a passive activity that can easily degenerate into whining and complaining. Goals, on the other hand, help to define the actions we need to take." (pg 9)
  • There are four political types, behavior that (pg 11):
    • Helps your business and helps your personal goals --> winner
    • Helps your business and hurts your personal goals --> martyr
    • Hurts your business and helps your personal goals --> sociopath
    • Hurts your business and hurts your personal goals --> dimwit
  • "Never advanced your own interests by harming the business or hurting other people." (pg. 17)

Chapter 2: Political Intelligence and the facts of life

  • " wondered why every place he worked was filled with stupid, incompetent people." (pg. 24) --> Sure there are bad companies, but after 10 years and 3 places, if everything is still bad, you probably need to do some self reflection.
  • "Clinging to the belief that the workplace should function demographically will only doom you to frustration and disappointment." (27)
  • The organization facts of life: (pg. 27)
    • #1: Organizations are not democracies.
    • #2: Some people have more power than others.
    • #3: Virtually all decisions are subjective.
    • #4: Your boss has control over much of your life.
    • #5: Fairness is an impossible goal
  • "The person with the most power wins" (pg. 29)
  • "Getting worked up about fairness is a waste of time and politically stupid. People who are obsessed with fairness tend to whine, and nobody likes a whiner... politically intelligent people concern themselves with leverage, not fairness." (pg. 31)

Chapter 3: Forget Fairness, Look for leverage

  • "she was pulling a power play at the wrong time" (pg. 36) - with respect someone moving houses, who got angry at the movers and threatened not to pay while they still had all her furniture in their truck.
  • "Winners are able to accurately calculate the Leverage Equation in any given situation." (pg. 38)
  • "being the boss doesn't necessarily mean that you have the most leverage." (pg. 39)
  • "Never intentionally offend anyone at work." (pg. 43)
  • "'Fairness' seldom determines what happens to you at work - leverage usually does." (pg. 45)
  • "...too much passion can be dysfunctional. Dedication to your work may make you credible and persuasive, but those who are too emotionally invested in their jobs can become defensive and inflexible." (pg. 49) --> I always thought passion was good, but it's possible that good passion can be misdirected for a bad result.

More in the next post...