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:
- Is It Blame or Is It Accountability?
- When we seek those accountable for a particular failure, we risk blaming them instead, because many
of us confuse accountability with blame. What's the difference between them? How can we keep blame at bay?
- Dismissive Gestures: III
- Sometimes we use dismissive gestures to express disdain, to assert superior status, to exact revenge
or as tools of destructive conflict. And sometimes we use them by accident. They hurt personally, and
they harm the effectiveness of the organization. Here's Part III of a little catalog of dismissive gestures.
- Lateral Micromanagement
- Lateral micromanagement is the unwelcome intrusion by one co-worker into the responsibilities of another.
Far more than run-of-the-mill bossiness, it's often a concerted attempt to gain organizational power
and rank, and it is toxic to teams.
- Suppressing Dissent: II
- Disagreeing with the majority in a meeting, or in some cases, merely disagreeing with the Leader, can
lead to isolation and other personal difficulties. Here is Part II of a set of tactics used by Leaders
who choose not to tolerate differences of opinion, emphasizing the meeting context.
- Power Affect
- Expressing one's organizational power to others is essential to maintaining it. Expressing power one
does not yet have is just as useful in attaining it.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 12: Cognitive Biases at Work
- Cognitive biases can lead us to misunderstand situations, overlook options, and make decisions we regret. The patterns of thinking that lead to cognitive biases provide speed and economy advantages, but we must manage the risks that come along with them. Available here and by RSS on August 12.
- And on August 19: Motivated Reasoning: I
- When we prefer a certain outcome of a decision process, we risk falling into a pattern of motivated reasoning. That can cause us to gather data and construct arguments that lead to the outcome we prefer, often outside our awareness. And it can happen even when the outcome we prefer is known to threaten our safety and security. Available here and by RSS on August 19.
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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.
- Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?
Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. 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.