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6 Tips for Navigating Political Swampland at Work


I like to think of organizational politics as people dynamics gone awry--people competing with one another to get their primary (and sometimes) secondary needs met within a certain timeframe.

Company politics are always part of the workplace landscape, so you might as well get used to it and ensure that you have the right equipment and people backing you before diving in. 


1. Wear the right goggles

You want to be able to see clearly without clogging your goggles with debris and mud. Being able to intuitively see around corners requires clear thinking and well-fitting goggles.  


2. Check your tank for air

The longer you plan to dive into the unknown realm of swampland territory the more air you’re going to need in your tank. The amount of time you plan to stay under is dependent on what you need to achieve. Don’t dive into the political swampland any longer than you need to...

  • Let folks know that you trust yourself enough to dive into the murky darkness.
  • Discover the hidden agendas of colleagues who you doubt have your back.
  • Identify undercurrents of opportunities that exist below the water line.


3. Dive with those you trust

You want to dive with people who have your back, so be sure to synch up with trusted diving pals ahead of time and agree upon a divide and conquer strategy. What you see or intuitively sense, they may not, and what they collect along the way you might miss.

Comparing diving notes is a great way to extend the reach of one diving session, so that you’re not having to do a political deep dive for the same reason more than once.


4. Seek out swamp experts on tides & undercurrents

Just as you would seek out an experienced oceanographer if you wanted to learn about ocean currents, if you’re a new diver and you’re planning to spend time in unknown swampland territory, you’ll want to seek out local expertise. Why? Because locals know what’s in their own backyards, and they particularly understand the undercurrents, but also the animal life that might do you harm. They can help you navigate influencing elements associated with tidal activity. 


5. Get comfortable with silence

When you’re navigating and negotiating you’re way through political swampland it’s important that you learn how to listen differently, beginning with feeling comfortable with silence. When you’re busy making a lot of bubbles, you won’t experience subtleties associated with the power of the pause.

By learning to appreciate silence you learn how to listen between the lines—an effective way of identifying hidden agendas—and discovering what is not being said, but maybe should be said based upon your own research.

Now, if you initially approach what appears to be a hidden agenda situation as one where the other diving party just hasn’t done their research homework, instead of their attempting to deceive you, you increase your chances of developing a healthy (non-toxic) and collaborative partnership in finding common ground. 


6. Pivot to avoid alligators

Who wants to get attacked by an alligator? No one. So, begin by knowing where they like to hide out, so that you can respond quickly should one decide to surface.

Of course, this means that you know how to pivot quickly, how to be adaptive and flexible, and if you’re in the midst of a career reinvention you’ll need to know how to pivot without losing ground on your planned Product of You launch.



photo credit: Ryan Somma via photopin cc

photo credit: norfolkdistrict via photopin cc