Last time, we examined the basics of distinguishing valuable political opportunities from riskier ventures. Since most people do eventually master the basics, advantage lies in mastering the finer points. Here are some of the less-often-recognized attributes of true political opportunities.
- What happens when you miss is pretty good too
- Even if pursuing the opportunity doesn't succeed, the next most likely outcome leaves you in a good position. This situation is often called successful failure. That "second prize" position might offer a variety of advantages: it might open a path to further opportunities, it might enhance your image, or it might enrich or create valuable relationships.
- Your source is private
- Opportunities that you learn about through private sources are usually more valuable. If your information about the opportunity is widely available, then in all likelihood, the opportunity is nothing special. If, on the other hand, the opportunity is something special, but it's being widely advertised internally, then the chances are good that it's "wired" for someone who learned of it long before you did. I know that sounds cynical, but that's the way it often works.
- Your source is credible
- It's a plus if the person who first alerts you to the opportunity has nothing to gain from your seizing it. If your source does have something to gain, it's possible that the information you received is slightly tilted; not necessarily by intention, but usually with the goal of biasing your choice in a direction that benefits your source most. That might be good or bad for you, but be aware of these effects.
- The information is confirmed
- When news of the opportunity reaches you through public channels, it's believable, though it might not be worth much since everyone has it. When the news reaches you through private channels, it could be more valuable, but it might not be valid. Seek confirmation discretely.
- When news of an opportunity reaches
you through public channels, it's
believable, though it might not be
worth much since everyone has it
- Unfavorable outcomes are relatively harmless
- If you pursue the opportunity, and you secure it, you then have a chance to perform. If the outcome of that performance is success, you'll benefit. But if the end result is anything less, and you still are not harmed, the opportunity is clearly more valuable, because it presents little risk.
- Pursuit is divisive
- This advantage applies if you're operating in a toxic political environment, and only then. In a toxic environment, dividing your political opponents is advantageous. If merely pursuing the opportunity divides your opponents, that helps your cause. Securing the opportunity is usually even more helpful. But consider this: do you really want to remain in such an environment? Probably not.
Some feel that political considerations have no place when evaluating opportunities. Perhaps, in some organizations, they don't. Such organizations are rare. For most of us, Politics is part of Life. First in this series Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Ten Tactics for Tough Times: I
- When you find yourself in a tough spot politically, what can you do? Most of us obsess about the situation
for a while, and then if we still have time to act, we do what seems best. Here's Part I of a set of
approaches that can organize your thinking and shorten the obsessing.
- How to Undermine Your Subordinates
- People write to me occasionally that their bosses undermine them, but I know there are bosses who want
to do more undermining than they are already doing. So here are some tips for bosses aspiring to sink
- Beyond Our Control
- When bad things happen, despite our plans and our best efforts, we sometimes feel responsible. We failed.
We could have done more. But is that really true? Aren't some things beyond our control?
- Some Hazards of Skip-Level Interviews: I
- Although skip-level interviews have their place, they can be dangerous, explosive, and harmful to the
organization. What are the dangers?
- Exploiting Functional Fixedness: I
- Functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that creates difficulty in seeing novel uses of things that
have familiar uses. Some devious moves in workplace politics exploit functional fixedness.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
- And on February 5: Unrecognized Bullying: I
- Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized. Three reasons: (a) conventional definitions of bullying exclude much actual bullying; (b) perpetrators cleverly evade detection; and (c) cognitive biases skew our perceptions so we don't see bullying as bullying. Available here and by RSS on February 5.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.