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Political Savvy and Office Politics

Political Savvy

How skillful are you at navigating office politics?  Are you politically savvy? How is power and influence used where you work?

The ability to navigate the political waters and influence others is an essential workplace competency. Politically astute leaders know how to appropriately use power and collaborate with others to achieve business goals. They create a culture of trust and achievement.

Office Politics

It’s naive to suggest that office politics are destructive and unethical. If you define politics in such a narrow way, you overlook the value of political awareness and skill. Political savvy, when combined with the right values, can be advantageous to you, your team and your organization.

To become politically savvy and build your power base:

1. Map the political terrain. First, identify all stakeholders — anyone who has an interest in, or who would be affected by, your idea — and how they will react. Some resistance is inevitable. You must anticipate others’ reactions, identify allies and resisters, analyze their goals and understand their agendas.

When you face objections, don’t go to individuals’ bosses or peers to undercut their arguments. Instead, ask them questions to determine their goals. Stakeholders may: 

  • Share your goal, but not your implementation approach
  • Disagree with your goal, but share your approach to change.
  • Share neither
  • Share both

You can identify potential allies and resisters with direct questioning.

2. Get them on your side. Build your coalition — a politically mobilized group committed to implementing your idea because doing so will generate valued benefits.

Creating coalitions is the most critical step in exercising your political competence. How do you win support? You need to be credible. You communicate credibility by letting potential allies and resisters know about your expertise, demonstrating personal integrity, and showing that you have access to important people and information.

3. Make things happen through leverage. You must win others’ buy-in by making it clear there’s a payoff for supporting your efforts and drawbacks for refusing to join your coalition. Show how implementing your idea will ease stakeholders’ workload, increase their visibility within the organization or help them cut departmental costs.

Once you’ve persuaded others to join your coalition, you’ve established a base that will legitimize your idea. Coalition members will then use their networks to evangelize for you.

Getting others to make changes and do things your way is risky and fraught with personal peril. Making your organization a better place is often at odds with personal advancement.

You can’t do it without power. Just be sure to create power in and with others, as opposed to using power over others.

Are you working in a professional services firm or other organization where executive coaches provide leadership development for high potentials? Does your organization provide executive coaching to help leaders improve their ability to effectively use power to influence others to achieve business goals? Leaders at all levels need to improve their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I politically savvy when it comes to office politics?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching for leaders who help their employees to improve their ability to influence others.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help you become more politically savvy at work. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

For more information, please go to, write to, or call 415-546-1252.

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