Glad-handing and sucking up not your thing? You may want to reconsider -- if you want a career with longevity, that is. Office politicking can be a complex road to cross, but some easy steps can turn you from political newbie to political pro.
Don't whine. So you're not happy with your current career situation and your work load sucks (wah-wah). No one wants to hang with a "Debbie-Downer." Fix your work situation if you don't like it, hopefully with the help of your boss, or look for another job. Eventually, co-workers will tire of your negativity and avoid you altogether.
Play up your accomplishments. Be assertive about your contributions so everyone up the ladder knows you're adding value. Do it with some class so you don't come off like an entitled show-off, however. Share the recognition if others are involved in a project that you receive praise for -- even if they aren't in the room.
Confront office gossips. Rumor has it a co-worker dished dirt behind your back. Not, cool. Though gossip is mainly just an office time-suck it could also be damaging to your career, so it's crucial to meet the "alleged" gossiper head on -- after all, the intel you got may not be accurate. Have a conversation with the person to help resolve issues -- or at least put her on notice that you're aware of her talking behind your back. Do damage control if think the rumors got to your boss and quickly clarify the truth.
Don't engage in gossip yourself. It's a pastime pitfall you want to avoid. If you engage in gossip you can assume nothing you say will be kept confidential, and that includes what you blab about your boss. Hang with the gossips and others will lose confidence in you, not to mention respect. Walk away or change the subject if you find yourself trapped at the water cooler.
Don't skip on the invites for happy hours, lunch or a Saturday cookout at the boss's house. It's important to stay visible and relevant, and networking outside the office gives other people an opportunity to get to know you and get interested in your career.
Be quiet and listen. When you spend more time listening and less time jumping in, you are less likely to say something that might come back to bite you. Also, when you're listening, you're learning. Remember, you're working with seasoned pros who've been playing the game a long time. Listen and ask questions -- this will let them know you're committed to your job.
Get your team under control if you want to be an effective manager. Resist the temptation to put your head down and ignore the clashes and headbutts. Conflict is what leads people to play poisonous politics. Don't pick sides, whatever you do -- even if your office BFF is at the heart of the conflict. Remember, a good leader is someone people want to follow and they see as fair.
Stay off the social grid during the day -- no tweeting, no status posting and certainly no online dating. If you're "friends" with co-workers they'll see you've posted during the day when you should have been working, and take that to mean you're bored, unmotivated, and leaving them to pick up your slack.
Consider your audience before you freak out. It doesn't matter how intense you perceive a situation, there isn't anything so worthy of an office-meltdown in front of co-workers - or, gasp, the boss! Throwing a tantrum makes you look unpredictable (and unstable). If you get angry, take it outside and walk it off before you react.
Live by these three little words that'll prove you're serious about your career: Dress. To. Impress. 'Nuff said.
Based in Wilmington, N.C., Melissa Warren has been writing professionally for more than 10 years. Her work has appeared in “Our State” magazine and other regional publications. Warren holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a certificate in professional writing from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington.