Office politics: playing the game

Nov 01 2006 by Rob Yeung Print This Article

Office politics matter. If you think you can succeed at work without getting political, you need to wake up. Politicking happens whether you like it or not, so you might as well learn the right buttons to push to influence others more effectively.

Working life sucks. Let's be honest here. Bad stuff can happen to good people. Bright, smart, hard-working souls who try to do a good job often end up getting walked over, trodden on, beaten down. And arrogant, nasty, vindictive types often seem to have a fast-track ticket that allows them to rise straight to the top. But you didn't need me to tell you that. I bet you can think of a dozen instances where you have seen precisely that happen.

But why does it go on in the first place?

Because business is about competition. Some of it is subtle and unspoken, but nearly everyone is competing for budgets, opportunities to work on more exciting projects, customers, or resources. And then there's competition for promotions, time with important colleagues, prestige, recognition, bigger salaries, and, of course, power. But the very fact that people do plot and scheme at work illustrates one of the truths of politicking that it delivers results.

While we're at it, here's another home truth politicking happens whether you like it or not. Yes, some people try to be noble and refuse to play the political game; they focus on their jobs and work hard in the hopes of being noticed and rewarded for their efforts.

But sadly there are limited opportunities in the world of work and, more often than not, these sorts of people just end up being overlooked or ignored either by colleagues or important customers or both. Do you want to be overlooked or ignored?

Of course not.

You'd think that would be a silly question whether anyone would choose to be overlooked or ignored. But too many people try in vain to get ahead without playing the political game. I coach managers across a lot of businesses, and this is always the first point that needs hammering home. If you can find the right buttons to push, your colleagues and customers will give you pretty much whatever you want. If you think you can succeed without getting political, you need to wake up. Wake up and smell that coffee. Because people at work can broadly be divided up into two camps. Of course there are shades of grey, but let's simplify to make the point.

On the one hand, we have the purists, the people who focus on their work. They dislike politics and try to work hard. They may be very good at their jobs and work honestly and diligently if somewhat naively. They follow rules and regulations, trying to do what is "fair" or "right" and feel frustrated when decisions are not "fair" or "right".

Nice does not mean nice, it often ends up meaning loser

They are nice guys, but I'm afraid nice does not mean nice, it often ends up meaning loser. And because they refuse to play politics, they get taken advantage of. They end up as organisational martyrs, moaning about the unfairness of life but never doing anything about it.

On the other hand, we have the players. And the players are the very opposite of purists. While they respect official rules and regulations, they understand that the unofficial rules of politics are often more important. They realise that decisions are rarely "fair" or "right" and that decision makers have both personal as well as professional buttons that need to be pressed. Okay, they may not always be the very best at their day-to-day jobs, but their connections and influence help them to vault up the career ladder over their purist colleagues.

Many purists refuse to play the political game, believing it to require underhand tactics and a malicious intent. But politics are not automatically bad. Politicking merely describes the act of scrutinising business relationships and learning how to influence others more effectively.

It usually involves going through informal channels rather than officially sanctioned ones, but that doesn't make it bad in and of itself.

Nor does politicking have to be selfish. You can use your understanding of politics to influence people and achieve goals that are good for the organisation as well as yourself. Even in the most friendly and supportive of organisations, people don't always agree so having an understanding of politics and how to exert influence can help you to pull people together and achieve outcomes that are in the organisation's best interests too.

Try to manipulate and use people and you will probably get caught. You could be tarnished with the label of being "political", which can make people refuse to trust you or want to listen to you again. So effective politicking has to be as much about give as it is about take. So. Play the game. Or get left behind. Which are you going to do?

About The Author

Rob Yeung
Rob Yeung

Dr Rob Yeung is a Director and executive coach at leadership consulting firm Talentspace. He is the author of over a dozen career and management books including How to Win and I is for Influence.

Older Comments

in nigeria for instance it is a well known fact that without politics you go no where but employee do not admit the existence of politics in organization.they agrue contrarily and always attribute their success to hardwork and qualification

olukitibi m oludare

this article is rubbish, the only point it makes is try to outdo your colleagues in politicking and you won't need to do any work. getting over this, it won't even give you a single help on how to do that. just be selfish and stomp on hard-working losers as hard as you can. congratulations!

ps.: wake up, there ARE organisations where people can happily work together and turn the naturally occurring competition into something fun and inspiring


I think this is one of the most despicable management articles I've ever come across and I wonder how it can be of any use to any respectable person. I understand that being in business means competition, but I also believe in ethical conduct. Articles like yours just give justification for wrongdoings in the workplace and totally undermine the values of respect, discipline & integrity. The so-called purists are the ones, despite all the odds, who keep true to themselves and their beliefs and refuse to be bought. But you even resort to namecallng them - naive, losers -because they refuse to take on your advice.

Why didn't you just blatantly say - 'Sleep with the boss, tell lies, backstab your colleagues, give bribes, flatter the shareholders, brown-nose the contractors,etc, as to do these are ok so long as you get sexy projects, higher visibility, better promotion prospects, fat bonuses, etc. eventhough you know you don't deserve them.'

It's irresponsible people like you that corrupt and poison minds and the cause for much suffering in the world. You hide behind what you call effective politicking or good politicking as a way to justify, even promote, insincerity & manipulative behavior.

Well, what goes around comes around. I am sure you're also still somewhere in the pecking order. Keep looking over your shoulder. You may find that because of of this stuid article, your partner/daughter/mother/sister maybe sleeping with your boss to ensure that you get that promotion.

Sleep well!

Naga Brunei

You know, I have the education, organizational skills, ability to adapt and welcome change. I was dragged into the political game and lost because of my values. I am now without a job (looking) but happier that I don't have to be part of an Agency that is suppose to help the community. Bogus. I did not trust my employer, how could I expect the community to trust me.


I think that some of the messages that have been left here have missed the point somewhat. I state categorically in the final paragraphs that politicking is merely about scrutinising business relationships. I state strongly the following: 'Nor does politicking have to be selfish. You can use your understanding of politics to influence people and achieve goals that are good for the organisation as well as yourself. Even in the most friendly and supportive of organisations, people don't always agree ' so having an understanding of politics and how to exert influence can help you to pull people together and achieve outcomes that are in the organisation's best interests too.'

I'm sorry that people seem to have misread the point of the article. But while the first few paragraphs are deliberately inflammatory, the final few paragraphs of this article hold the true message of my original answer!

Good luck and thanks to all who have responded!

Rob Yeung London, England

I found this article to be honest and a breath of fresh air. Forget political correctness (PC) for a moment. Sometimes PC blinds us to the obvious.

People, at their core, are animals. They are like dogs or sheep. A person must devote their life to a disciplined and consistent spiritual life that is based in acts (and not acts of convenience), in order to truly transcend their 'animalness.' You all know what I am talking about, because nearly all of you reading this will have character flaws that your are well aware of.

Essentially, we are an animal and we go to work with animals. The goal is to produce money and make more of it than competitors. If your work life sucks, this is why. There is nothing spiritual about this process. The original intent of this process was to make life better for human beings, but what more do we need to make life 'better'? The more we 'improve' things through business, the worse the world gets. So why are we going to work? Because we have to, to pay our bills, because we are addicted to a consumer lifestyle. If that's not a strong indication of animal behavior, I don't know what is.

Yes, it all sucks. But truth and awareness are the seeds of change. You can see all of for what it is, and work to make your life better. Denying the obvious hurts yourself and others.

Office politics can be turned into an art form, much like Zen Buddhism. Zen teaches one to 'destroy' logical thinking by demonstrating the limits of logical thinking. You can do the same with office politics. Destroy the beast. Go to work to be a living example of how to be in the world, and for no other reason. Truth will set you free.

Bill Bradley Jr. Tacoma, WA

A good writer so to say judging from the your article about office politics (OP) that has refused to convey any professional teaching or argument as I guess you intended couple with the stand you tend to take by making us see reasons why success can not be achieved by being a ''Purist'' until one's hands are soiled with the dirt of the dirty game of OP. I recall having seen a number of good employees (purists as you call them) who earned so much respect even from the so called office politicians and management of their organisation and well rewarded for their upright stand in some of those good organisations. I disagree with your generalisation of OP-You also failed to mention here that it does not work in all cases and with all bosses. I am sure there are still some good Managers out there who understand what it means to put up a ''Performance Act'' in the office, you can not have your way with such managers even with this well articulated but not convincing module of OP. Where do you draw the line between OP and circumventing the organisation laid down rules and policies? You have made me believe that even at your level; you will rather reward those apostles of OP rather than the ones doing their jobs without any performance act.... I dare tell you that OP as you have described is professionally wrong, ethically and morally bad.

Niyi adekoya BU, Bournemouth

Office politics is a fact and reality of our lives and the author is or appears to be on the face of it quite correct in thier statement that nice people tend to be the losers. This is highly unfortunate for employers and other meaning well individuals within these companies. organisations should be about valuing diversity and respecting individuality. How many companies have the words 'respect' 'Bi-culturalism' 'Communication' 'Integrity' etc etc in thier values, mission statements and service standards and then compare those to your own experiences of how they actually treat their staff. If you don't fit the mould of your peers, don't walk the walk and talk the talk they do, smooze, socialise or hang out in the 'right circles' then you are placed immediately on the outer. It doesn't matter that you live by the organisations values and have your own set of values and ethics. What matters, it appears in reality, is that you don't play by the often arogant, self centred rules of those managers and leaders in the organisation who you report to or work closely with and thus are automatically placed on the outer.

It is a shame that office politics are used to shaft good people rather than used in a good way to sharpen the ability of the team and the organisation rather then enhance ones own personal crucade. How ironic I end with crucade, the catch phrase of the local rugby team in Christchurch, one which is supported by some of those dispicable smoozers and self centred managers that are the political, unchecked monsters of today's so call staff friendly employer.

Andrew Munro New Zealand

After being in my new job for about a month, my female boss told me that I barely got through the interview panel (which consisted of herself and two male bosses) she had to 'speak up for me' because I was too serious She told me that the trick was to smile more and flirt a little because that's what one of the male members of the panel, her boss, liked in another female candidate.... (!) I somehow don't think this was a 'requirement' for male interviewees.

Katherine Williams, UK

I think Rob's comments are only partly true. I have seen people try 'politicking', but come across as being shifty and actually don't get the promotion that they expect. I've also seen people sneer at those who do the schmoozing, but end up so cynical and lazy that they probably don't deserve to be promoted! The most successful organisations are also the most motivational and meritocratic (South West Airlines, WL Gore etc), and they recruit and promote good people. The bigger problem in management is that there is a stubborn, cultural refusal to make the links between management practices in these companies and their commercial success, to the extent that investors and analysts even try to persuade such employers out of their good habits.

Philip Whiteley UK

Office politics are alive and well. I have personally encountered the most animalistic, status seeking, brown nosing, back stabbing, vindictive individuals in the work place. It took years for me to realize this is a necessary evil if you want to move up the corporate food chain. If you don't want to be trampled, you have no choice but to play the game. 'Nice guys finish last'. That quote could not be more true. Play smart, play subtle but play strong & stay hungry. It should pay off in the end.

Renee Johnson Puyallup, Wa

Politics are innate to humanity. I think that this is a word that is often taken out of context and so often has a negative connotation. The word politics, as it is formally defined, is the method in which groups of people make decisions. There are many factors that drive groups of people to make decisions. In the office, there are basically two categories of decisions; personal and business. We weigh all of the decisions that we make in the work place off of one or both of these two categories. Understanding how to effectively appeal to both of these categories is what makes an effective and successful person in business. If the scales are tipped in either direction there will be complications. Those that appeal more to the business side of decision making are the so called hard workers that get overstepped. Those that appeal to the personal side of decision making with little to no business value are the ones we define as snakes. Success in the corporate workplace means balancing them both.

Joe Blackwell California, U.S.

Your article is excellent.The only thing is office politicians are diverse,intelligent and clear about their objective depending upon the industry they serve and the culture of the ir country.People play politics : drive their point score over others demonstrate their power.Unfortunately majority in our country play for no.2 and 3.The organizations do not gain anything from them.Yet they are rewarded.The politics is dominant in upper middle management than middle.That is why organizations sustain.I am happy to say that these trends are dominant in Mfg industry and not much in IT industry.

Rajasekhar India

I think you just wrote this article to get a rise out of readers and get a lively debate going. Politicking gave us Enron and all the other immoral companies that stole from their employees and stockholders, made several countries go into Iraq, and allow companies to sell toxic products and then lie about their research. I would rather be on the street any day than follow that crowd. I have left a job before due to the politicking and will do it again. The tide is changing on this type of thinking but it will always be a fight when greed is involved.

Richard Parker

Lying, cheating, and backbiting want get you any where my friend. You may be poor, and you may be always sidelined but at the end of the day- you will sleep better at night. The amount of effort that is expended by people who use dirty means to rise up is in it self a punishment for them. They are always afraid, perturbed, and anxious. they never rest. Always on the look out. Honest people have confident in their ability, in themselves, and they know their job very well. They will always be employable and wanted.

abdul Melbourne

My company is a small company. We don't have office politics. This is because, every week we have a meeting called ' Work In Progress' (WIP). During WIP, we have feedback session. Feedback session is a session where every individual will give either positive or constructive feedback to a person.

Syamilia Malaysia

It's really sad to say but the article is true. It is especially true with regard to people who have no personal life. People who have no true identity except for work and what is going on in other peoples lives. One of the commentors remarked that this sort of person has to expend so much energy in order to live this way. This is also truth. This is a way of life for these people and they politick through every scenario of their existence, they should really be pitied.

Allycin Boasman Columbia, MD

Wow...this is really true. At one point in time, I worked in an office environment where there was a lot of negative Politicking going on, and even though I am not one of those people who gets involved in the commotion, I often found my name being brought up in negative situations because I didn't 'take sides' or get involved. In a way, it almost seemed like my silence, gave my former co-workers a reason to want to target me.

Bettina Sacramento, CA

I really don't support what is explained here but one thing we can understand after reading this article. There are 80% people thinking this is true which we can not ignore. If we don't look at this angle and only believe there are no politics and they won't effect us in any way then it is not so useful. We have to be aware of politics and should always find the best ways to be nutral and concentrating completely on how to grow. This is required because every one will be having target to reach the top and at top how you behave the same way will be followed by all. So we have to decide which is the best and how the others should be.

Ravi Shanker Hyderabad, India

I think we loose sight of the essence of this article when we focus on a debate on the morality of Office Politics,.... It's really simple, 'If you want to get along with people, you need to step back and understand them and not seek to please them but be considerate of them in your actions'. This thought process drives your actions and people feel loved and naturally you earn favours....

Nneka, Lagos, Nigeria

Article is really excellent. It explains all the aspects o and working condition at work place. More over it teaches workers, the way to survive at the work along with the way to get promoted. When you read this article you will realize that you are under the same condition regardless of the job position and the company you are working for.

Jwalant college

If we view this article from the point of survival of the fittest then we are not fair to those who lack the wherewithal to lobby. What I can understand from the intent of this article is that employees should learn to play unhealthy office politics as the end justifies the means. My understanding of this piece of write-up is that workers should play the politics of lobbying for juicy rewards or position against the fairplay and equity. Politicking to the detriment of employees who are hard-working and waiting for a fair pay, justice and promotion is unfair. To avoid workplace conflict that will lead to low productivity and ethics violation, employers should strive to be fair and give no room for the type of politicking envisaged in this article.

Miebi Nigeria

This article struck a chord with me because part of it is true. However, it does reflect the philosophy of Social Darwinism without taking into account that the vast majority of people go to church and engage in spiritual practices which contradict evolution. I personally think that what comes around, goes around. I also think that most people can see through politics and read the truth behind the veil. We all just want to be happy. Go around work all day and try to make people just a little happier and you will go far. Don't be fake though, just be yourself, but be nice to everybody. I mean show them that you genuinely care about them and soon before you know it, you'll be the guy/gal on top and people will be saying, 'hey, that guy is truly a great leader, not some suckbutt that gave blows to get to the top.'

Ron Bacon San Francisco, CA

The politics that Rob is talking about are more subtle than many of the comments have recognised. Sometimes it's just a case of one person having what another wants and using influence to achieve a goal - - that can either be constructive or selfishly motivated. It is the selfishly motivated kind that we tend to have trouble accepting. The story below is a story of politics (use of influence) and counter political moves that fortunately, in the end, had a happy ending for me. The antagonist in my story wanted what I had, and I wanted to keep what I felt was rightfully mine. So both of us used politics out of self-interest. Here's my story: I'm one of those 'nice' people who almost got done. I had to get smart quickly and learn how to play the game or lose a great career break that I had won fairly due to my ability, experience and education. The problem is, someone else wanted the learning opportunities that had been promised to me at the time of my employment, and she wanted the visability that went with my role and from my hard work and achievements over a 1 year period. I had done the hard intellectual work and I believe she wanted to take over (although it was being pitched as for 'her development' of course). The red flag for me was when she asked me to go to lunch with her. In over a year of working for the company she had never shown that level of interest in me before. Previous employees had mentioned on leaving not to trust her, especially when she was being extra nice.

As I said earlier, those development opportunities were why I took the position in the first place. I was still growing into my role and doing a damn good job, but I was now being asked to hand over the learning ops. The person in question had neither the education or experience to do my job, but what she did have was influence over a boss - she was the favourite and that was evident from their interaction. Rather than watch my career opportunities go to someone who used her closer relationship with the boss and therefore position of influence (whilst complaining to colleagues about him), I got smart. I could read the writing on the wall and knew that in six months if I took no action, I would likely be made redundant or want to leave because my role was not living up to the promises made. So what did I do?

I got my work out to a broader audience (including my boss' boss via another snr manager) to gain support and raise awareness of a major project I had begun working on. I traded on my established credibility and on the good relationships I had nurtured throughout the company over the last year with other snr and influential management. If I was going to be forced out then I didn't want her taking credit for my work and I hoped questions would be asked.

I had to hold my own when my competitor tried to ambush me and demonstrate her leadership in my position by publicly announcing at a dept meeting long-term decisions in my role without talking to me first. To my horror, she was negatively impacting that major project I was working on with her public announcement. I got a roasting because I dared to disagree with her in public but fortunately the stunt backfired on her because she only ended up demonstrating her inability, and also made our dept snr management look foolish for siding with her publicly when it later transpired she had made a mistake due to her lack of understanding.

I believe my colleague was trying to assume control of my role, bit by bit, with the support of the boss and I was being labelled as unco-operative and not a 'team player' for resisting (I had been hired as the organisational expert in that field). For example, she was pushing hard to bring in external resources which she would then manage (her friend's company) and this accounted for approx 1/3 of my role. She had already been given another chunk of my role and was getting involved with the last remaining part and making decisions on that with the boss, without me present. I got the sense that I was starting to be managed as a problem. I felt I was was being given a choice of stepping aside quietly and ultimately leave the company or fight and I chose not to be a victim (although I had begun an exit strategy so as to leave on my terms and not when it suited them i.e: after I had done the intellectual work she couldn't do, but would want to take credit for).

My competitor ended up leaving the company suddenly when it was becoming apparent she wasn't going to get what she wanted and she wasn't able to live up to her many declarations of being a 'hi-potential' (which is why she was being given my development ops). The tasks of my role that had already been given to her, she had failed to step up and do and I suspect the boss was starting to distance himself. She left citing 'stress' and pointing the finger at the boss.

Her role was made redundant a couple of weeks after her exit..........Multiple people have commented since on the improved climate of our department (because she wasn't that good at her own job). I think the boss learned a thing or two also. We now have a better professional relationship, although I'm still a little wary. I know him to be a political animal (constructive and self-interested) and I suspect his role in this episode was more than he will ever admit to publicly.

Out of this experience I've learned some things about myself. I will step up if I need to and I can survive in a competitive environment. I never considered myself this type of person before, but I've toughened up. Let's face it, not all organisations are sweetness and light and one big happy family whose people would never do anything to disadvantage another (may I work for one like that one day). Organisations are political and therefore 'irrational' for the simple reason that many people are motivated by self-interest (it's why the wiffm principle reigns supreme) and for the rest we are motivated by the need for self-protection. Of course, it is preferable that people only use influence for the collective good and, by and large, I like to consider myself to be this type of influencer, I'm just wise to and experienced of the less desirable types of influence now.

I'm reassured about my ability to read the political landscape. My instinct told me something was going down and in the end I was very right to be worried. When it came down to it, it was either going to be me or her to leave eventually. She crumbled first and I got to keep the job that I had won on merit.

At least now I can get on with doing my job to the highest standard I can. That major project I was talking about earlier? It is now included as a key goal in the organisational strategic plan (published) for our Division. In searching for information for that project, I came across this article.....

Susan Australia

This article for me was very interesting. If you substitute the words 'stakeholder management' instead of 'politicking' then the emphasis shifts but the core remains true.

Every one of us exhibits this behaviour to a smaller or larger degree, I fall into the 'loser' catagory in this article,but, if |I choose to pitch my 'great' idea to the Boss when I know he is likely to be in a good mood instead of bad one, surely I am as guilty as the politicking predator, only the magnitude is less but the intent is the same.

The very fact we have hierarchy in management structure gives rise to ambition, however small and we all play the game in some form.

I went through the Leadership Development Programme in my Company, part of this programme had Senior speakers giving their view on Leadership and how they had risen, the common factors across 10 speakers were:-

Preserve your integrity and reputation It's ok to blag/lie to whomever to achieve the results you need - high risk but pays off well if not busted

For me it is down to personal ethics, my ethics remember the cliche 'remember the butts you kick on the way up, they are the same ones you will kiss on the way down'.

The article is correct and my view is its down to the choices we make depending on our own ethics versus risk to reputation. This determins how high we do or don't rise.

Its dog eat dog out there.

Trevor UK

playing the game,it's rather having a cover otherwise you prostitute yourself to get cover not to mention loser vs winner of what? however we are not here for ever? thank you.


managers are not born they are made.when we came in to this world we dont know how to stand,how to sit,how to talk we learn everything by practical experiences so managers also they learn everything by observing,learning,teaching.

Reshma chowdary india

it is good and readable material which is aplicable and affordable to me

francis phillip TANZANIA

To Susan, a respondent above.

You're full of BS. How do you know for certain that the other person was taking over? Why couldn't you speak with them openly and establish a strong rapport? How would you know that they were less qualified or less experienced? Did you read their CV? Did you ever take any time to get to really know them? Why did you listen to malicious rumours without getting to know the person?

The other person may have wished to be an equal team member, with a wholesome desire to see the division achieve, with a desire to improve all systems, not her own standing or career. Instead of forming a team with the person, not only did you reject her, refused to work with her, but you had also employed underhand tactics, that you imagined she was using, to get rid of her from the organisation. Her livelihood and career shot down because of your overactive delusional imagination and refusal to form rapport with the colleague. Now you are gloating how your project entered into the organisations strategic plan. Your project? It is a company project, you are just an employee. Had you worked with the woman on the project, and other projects, not only would it have been completed much sooner but other areas and projects could have been worked on jointly as well, and completed much sooner. Two heads are always better than one when working together.

You seem to be a selfish, full of BS, nasty SOB, as per your description of the situation. Do you at all care about what may have happened with the woman you manouvred out of the company? How is she?

Everyone seems to be forgetting that one cannot live in society and this world without an income. It is so vitally important to work together, to assist each other, to care about one's colleagues and company simply for the fact that it is their livelihood. Their work leads to income that funds their food, education, family home, children, clothing, holidays, etc... etc...

There has to be understanding and compassion within the workplace as well.

Susan too Australia

You seem to forget, that everyone has a sense of justice. You might argue that these 'pureist' are losers but please keep in mind that they also have some sense of justice. You seem to understand that they, the 'pureist', would get angry so at least you acknowledge that they are intelligent enough to understand what you are doing, yet you dismiss their lack of retaliations as being losers.

Could it be that their personalities are such that they bottle up their emotions. If they were not stupid, they would know what you are up to. If they were stupid, you did not need to bother with them in the first place.

You should be afriad, very afriad. The most dangerous people are the ones that keep their emotions bottled up. You should feel very uncomfortable when their anger oozes out of their body. People are irrational, you know that of course. XD

I only ask you to take a moment to apply the same irrationality to these 'losers' instead of just applying it to your boss.

Silent Fury

This article makes some intersting points, but I think the article is full of 'half truths' and incidents that do not take into account the full story or all of the facts. You see, I am an introvert, which means to the core of my character I am naturally more inclined to be that hardworking, honest, kind, and fair worker that the author described as a loser. In reality, I first want to say, since when do the above qualities represent a 'loser'? Its because of people with this 'politicking' kind of mentality who end up in power positions is why we end up with the ENRONS, HOUSING CRISES, and FINANCIAL MELTDOWNS that have come to represent this country...the TRUE IDIOTS of the world who LACK CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT and operate from a self-centered, kill or be killed mentality are the ones who are put in positions to run our American economy based on the notion of American greed and who unfortunately don't have the common sense and brains to know that although you get away with scandalous practices today ...eventually what is done in the dark is brought to the light and EVENTUALLY WILL COME BACK TO BITE YOU. Unfortunately this is usually found out, too little too late. In my opinion, we need to get back to the so called 'loser' mentalities and work ethics that the author described so that we Americans can get on with the business of getting back in the game of being a substantial world power. American Greed and overcompetitiveness has cost us a lot, just look at what state it put our country in. REALITY CHECK...the hardworking, honest, character-driven and truly INTELLIGENT cultures are becoming the new 'super powers' and all the money and power are shifting to the East (China, India, etc) to people who are smart enough to know discipline themselves and how to really run businesses and handle a freakin budget (and I am not Asian..I am African-American) If you dont believe me, check the world numbers and economy and they will tell the story louder than I can. NOW THERE'S SOME POLITICAL REALITY CHECK FOR YOU!

Yes, sometimes it seems as if people who dont do the right thing seem to get ahead, but I am a Christian and my bible addresses these things saying that it does happen but 'then I saw there end...' and didnt envy it! This short term over-competitiveness and backstabbing only brings TEMPORARY success, not long term success so it depends on your perspective. Greed driven or character driven? Which one last longe in the end? Lets take a look at our country's state and do an objective evaluation on that subject. lastly, as a personal example I once had a boss who looked over me and harassed me for 3 years while she did all the politicking and the end, I got sick of her and took my quiet, loser', character driven talents elsewhere and when I left, the company lost so much money on their bottom line (thousands because the lazy people who had to take over after I left didnt have a clue what to do because they had not prepared themselves with self discipline for that day when the hardworking 'do gooder' would leave----, they found out my boss did these things and she was FIRED ON THE SPOT 2 weeks after I left for the resulting chaos! I got the last laugh, even though it took a long time to come.

So it is that even though you cant see it right away, people who have character are still needed in society as 'fail-safes' to keep us in check, especially in the workplace so that we can prevent more WALLSTREET SCAMS and BANK Failures from reoccuring.

So instead of belittling someone who has good values take your raggedy, uninformed, lazy butt over to one of them and see what you can learn about how to do a good job for LASTING SUCCESS. And dont be a political bully...bullies still suck.


this guy is a dummy


This article has a lot of repitition but doesn't really go into detail of what is meant by polliticking. The truth is we need all sorts of souls to contribute effectively to an organization. What is most important is that there is a good balance of political and non political individuals and harmony among staff.

Lewis Toronto, Canada

This was a wasted read. I thought I would get some good pointers on how to play the political game since it is an ugly reality. I already know that I should play I just don't know how.


A good judgment is to seek deep the ultimate causes of things. Know the issue by its first and universal principle accepted subjectively but verified objectively.

We can present two poles here of viewing work; that of work in the category of having and work in the category of being. Having is simply stated as work is the total sum of all human actions with the end of mind of acquiring the highest possible monetary value through legitimate profession. On the other hand, being states that work is essentially a human activity that defines man's meaning, direction and being.

The former is inevitably competition. The latter is dedication or fidelity.

By logical reasoning, being precedes having. Thus, there is still a deep reality which we people in the world of business can work on and worth investing for - Business in the category of Being - a Business which takes precedence being over having.

Office politics is clearly not giving us the output of quality work. It is like a weed in a firm. Its effects are pervasive, from top to bottom, managers and subordinates alike. It decays trust and honesty in work. It can sabotage important principles governing the firm and can sap the positive energy of subordinates. Even, customers can see this from us and in turn we are the only ones who repel them. They will look for firms who have more energy in dedication than the energy of competition.

The mission here is to get any sub human element in the firm. Office politics is in no way human. Therefore, we can take it out from our business environment. Reward dedication, quality will follow and there is no measure of quantity in terms of products and services it can produce.

The purist works already the aspects of the category of being. Most players of the firm work in the level of having. We can cross-check that in their motives demonstrated through their actions.

Players can give us millions but faithful workers can give us more - monetary value and meaning of the firm.

I don't agree in playing the game of OP, although you have exhumed the positive value of it. First, it is not a reality by essence. It is something we conceive out of a trend happening in many firms. It is like a shadow in reality. It is like a parasite in the guise of reality. We will tend to believe if this is always what is believed about. Is this the ultimate cause we can think of? How can i play a game which has no foundation in reality?

Being is the real reality. Take away being and we all end up in a vicious cycle of nihilism. Work is being and thus OP has no place in it. That is why i could not play this game. I only know fidelity and dedication which makes the firm I belong more human and dignified.

Arc mikael Palompon, RP

I've worked in the IT sector for 22 years, found that in most IT companies the senior employees (employees who have been with the company for years) use office politics to bully newer employees (much like animals mark their territory). Why they do it puzzles me, my guess is they are afraid the new employee knows more than they do or will steal the limelight. It's sad, but in most cases the management and HR managers are too spineless to sort the culprits, which in turn causes many a skilled employee to resign.

clive South Africa

Well I would agree with the implications you point out for the purists and players, as you call them. Everything you write after that seems to be justification of bad behaviour.

The way I see it, business is one big ethics test. The players fail.


I agree with office politics being alive in a corporate world. I learnt it a hard way, when I resigned from my job after 3 years of glowing performance, with no errors, always going above and beyond the basics of my job, often covering for other people who decided to take a free ride. Well, my error was - I was not promoting myself, I thought the results will speak for themselves. I did not participate in never ending gossip - aka who is single and pregnant, who is getting married/divorced, who lives in a trailer park, etc. I always tried to be nice to everybody, well, I am Pisces - I think it says it all. As time went, I realized that people stopped talked to me, I was getting some 'looks', but did not pay any attention to that. I thought I have to try harder, so I did. I got many words of apprecation from customers, including Thank you cards and flowers, I was selected as an employee of the month, but nothing of this was ever acknowledged by my supervisor. From her I got just some silent look. So, again, I just thought I have to try harder. Till one day when she 'forgot' to give me an important information. I asked her for that, and she just blew on me, yelling, screaming, throwing hands to the air, and telling me, if I do not like how things are I can quit. I was stunned. I would not expect anything like that in a million years. Just then I realized that lately she was not comunicating with me at all, although with my colegue they always had 'their heads together'. I realized that my coworker, very friendly for 2 years, was suddenly avoiding me at all. Screaming and harsh treatment from my boss continued and were increasing after this initial period, the extent of enemosity was enormous. Finaly, after 2 months of this treatment, I filed an official complaint. The rest is the history. Management did not respond to my complaint, several times postponing the meeting. Nobody in the office, includig my boss and coworker, spoke to me at all for almost a month. Just absolutely necessary words, perhaps 2 sentences a day, all work related. From my boss I got only 'Good Morning' and that was all for days and weeks in the row. Then, working under these strange conditions, always looking over and behind my shoulder I made a very minor clerical error, that could have been easily corrected and it did not cause any damage and it did not effected anybody. I was immediately called to a disciplinary meeting with 3 managers, regarding my 'performance'. My error was blown out of proportion, I was being cut in the mid of each sentence, hostility and enemosity was overwhelming. I was stripped on the spot of some of my duties, another disciplinary meeting was planned for the next day, where as per GM I needed to have the Union rep. present to support me. And if I wish to resign, my resignation will be accepted. I thought I am in some bad dream, nothing was making any sense, I thought I losing it, I did not understand the whole performance that the managers put on. I felt like a criminal, murderer, thief, you name it. It more than 30 years of my professional career I did not experienced anything like that. Sounds unbelievable? Sure, it does. Did I hide something in between lines? No, I did not. Is it something else to my story, what I did not say? No, it is not. In 3 years I was getting only glowing references, never ever any complaint, and suddenly, I was on my way out, I did not even know how. Why? To this day I do not know. One thing I know for sure, I did not participate in office politics, I was polite, professional, helpful, over qualified, but I did not know anything about people, I did not fit in. As I said, my attendance was excellent, I work record was spotless, I never had any konflict. Was I a threat? Was I too 'clean'? I do not know. I resigned the very next day. I am very lucky that I do not suffer economically, my husband provides for me without any problem. 7 months after my resignation I am still afraid to meet people, to meet former coworkers, nobody called me, but 1 of the managers, who was not present at the meeting and said she was shocked, as they were others. I learnt my lesson a hard way. It changed me. I do not trust anybody, I am not sure if I will be able to work, ever. I am recovering slowly, still having flashbacks of the 'event'.


@ Naga: Office politicking doesnt mean that you have to sleep with someone or flatter someone. Its just that you have to deal wisely with people because people out there are cruel and if you are too nice they take your advantage and plot against you. I'm not saying that you have to be mean as well but at least you know how to deal with such people so that you can take a stand for yourself and defend your position. You dont have to be a part of those gossips but you have to keep an ear on what people are talking about, not because you take interest in other people's life but, to make sure that nobody is talking about you or spreading rumors about you.

A Pervez

Rob, playing political games in the workplace is tricky depending on what type business the employee is in and how good the company is managed if there is any management at all ..... so I think your advice cannot be applied to every business; and I enjoyed reading others' comments....I am being bullied on and I just have to read up on how to handle the bully and get thru my work day without too much stress....I loved the comments from everyone about ethics....but bullies do not care about integrity or ethics, just about using people for their Rob....I say us Purists (good, hard workers) should NOT play the 'game' , but just learn how to deal with the employees that are dishonest, self-centered and sloppy during their work politics are hardly ever used properly or for the good of the team, but only to bring someone else down.....the day that I walk away from my position, I will remind my boss that I like my 'style'........ :)

Linda Illinois USA

The author makes a sound argument but draws critcism because of the title. No one likes the term 'office politics' but it's a badly misunderstood term. Employees have to understand that being successful in business requires a 'well-rounded' approach. Call if office politics if you like, but someone who just buries their head in their work appears to be one-dimensional. An employee who's more involved in other aspects of the organization (i.e. - understanding the big picture of the company to include sales and profits, management comittment to shareholders, team building, employee motivation, etc. is going to be the better candidate for promotion. And understanding those aspects requires an employee to become politically involved. Likewise, employees who are strictly 'political players' are equally poor candidates for promotion and, more often than not, are quickly found out. I have no problem with employees who only want to 'do their job' and go home. Their production is important to my division. But I wouldn't consider them for promotional opportunites that require interpersonal and social skills that are required at the next level. Likewise my 'political players' will remain in sales where they shine and also not be considered for promotions. I believe the author of this article is stressing the need to be adaptable and develope in all levels of the organization in order to be successful in higher levels. Don't get caught up in terminology. Understand your company's needs, what separates you from the competition, and what you need to do to become more promotable.

Mike Irvine, CA

In reading the article, I find that there is truth to what is being said. But, I think the point here is culture. Each organization has a type of organizational culture that determines how politics is played. By some accounts, some people are animals. I disagree. Animals do not understand the difference between instinct and educated judgement calls. Animals are not political. I have a fundamental viewpoint that people are good and that the good of the organization will prevail granted that the culture wants the organization to be successful. On the contrary, if this viewpoint is missed and personal egos get in the way, then politics become negative and create a culture of untrustworthyness, people out for their own agends and pushing people down mentalities. It's easier to do than to actually take a long hard look at what is good at the organization and it may not be the person doing the politicing. So the question is not the politics. Politics can be positive if used correctly without violating ethics and morals. The question is: what is the culture rewarding?


The article is indeed correct in asserting that office politics exists. But ,as a christian, I concur with Yolanda - the bible says not to envy such people. I think though that there are 'healthy' politics, and 'unhealthy' politics - depending on the organisations culture and what they value most. Sales is always dog eat dog, and so I won't work in that field -even if I could be an execellent sales person I do not want to bridge the void and do something that conflicts with my christian values - if that means being a 'loser' - so be it - someone bigger and infinitely more powerful than any e mployer is watching out for me.

By 'healthy politics' I am talking about demonstrating leadership and proactively searching out roles in your organisation which you are interested in doing - that does require selling your skills, experience and personality. Let's face it - who would you want on your team - someone really wanting to do the job and who will get in well with people - or a person who couldn't care less and might put people offside - that would be unfair on the business ?- People who can do this can still maintain their dignity, even as christians. Where it crossses the line is when people step on others to elevate themselves - and that does happen all the time - I'll choose to be a loser in that case if need be.

Eric Melbourne Australia