Office Politics are Just Relationships

Jake Wilder
5 min readApr 10, 2022

Ignore Them at Your Peril

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Every company has politics. If you work with people, it’s part of the job. We either recognize this and deal with it or let it hinder our success.

Failing to recognize and understand this creates a major risk to your success.

When I first started working, I didn’t subscribe to this idea. I figured that I would just deliver high quality work and it would stand for itself. And if I’m being honest, as an introvert, the thought of networking put me in a state of panic.

This worked for a while. But eventually I wanted a promotion into management. Suddenly, my work wasn’t enough. I hadn’t invested in the political side and didn’t have the support needed to advance. Despite delivering more and better results, at least in my own opinion, I was behind my colleagues that spent more time networking throughout the organization.

It didn’t seem fair. I’d put in the work. I shouldn’t be penalized for not playing politics. What does schmoozing have to do with performance anyway?

A lot, as it turns out.

Office politics get a bad rap. They’re the standard scapegoat for when things don’t go our way. Anytime someone doesn’t get a promotion they want; office politics are to blame.

We like to believe that we make fair, rational decisions. So, when we see someone make a decision that doesn’t align to our own, we naturally assume that it was unfair and irrational. Hence, office politics.

Yet what many people call politics, those at the top of the organization simply call relationships. And relationships affect nearly every decision we make.

I’m not suggesting that competence doesn’t matter. You have to be good at what you do. But there’s a hard limit to what any of us can accomplish on our own. We expand our effectiveness by collaborating and influencing others.

There’s a common misconception that as you rise in an organization, your authority grows. You may have more responsibility, but you often have less ability to make things happen on your own. Your effectiveness stops being about what you can physically contribute and more about what you can accomplish through others.

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Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.