Getting Good at Office Politics

imagesI figured I should follow up last week’s posts about Office Politics with something about how to play the game. But that’s where I got stumped. I never really figured out how to play office politics so was having trouble figuring out how to advise my loyal readers on what to do.

As you might imagine I turned to Google to give me some good advice. Unfortunately I got a lot of smarmy, socially correct, well-meaning posts on the topic. OMG, people do take themselves so seriously. Well that wouldn’t work so I performed a multi-variant analysis using chi-squared techniques on behavior patterns of successful office politicians.

That’s when it hit me. I thought back to all the people I knew who were good at office politics. The one thing they had in common was that they were all giant suck-ups. Now in case you are unclear of what a suck-up is, please check out some marvelous definitions in the Urban Dictionary. (One great thing about the term is that is can be used as both a verb and a noun.)

I thought back to famous suck-ups I have known who made chummy with the boss, were always in her office, sought her out for special advice and overall, talked a very good game without ever producing anything. These were the people who won in office politics.

The people who lost were the quiet ones who just did their job, didn’t draw attention to themselves, didn’t seek special favor and who were just all-round competent. In the end if you’re one of these people, you know who you are because the suck-ups really piss you off.

So if you want to get better at office politics, time to change your behavior and start sucking up.


  1. No.

    It’s risky business sucking up. It makes you vulnerable to manipulation and loss of respect from your peers.

    No Deal! I want to work for the man or woman who is smart enough to know the difference between an employee who justifies their job by being productive or by playing “the game.” They both take effort, why not direct that effort to ensuring your job will be there tomorrow – not made redundant due to lack of production from the position.

    Bosses beware! Are you being manipulated by an underling who knows you love having your ego stroked? They’ll take your job in a second, and do it better than you because they know “the game.” Know the difference. I blame these types for recessions – you don’t have to be an economist to know that people who take a paycheque without doing any work are the main cause of financial instability on personal, organizational and national levels (so it’s the high level execs that are the main cause, but the theory holds true for all).

    I better get back to work.

    • You’ve caught the Catch 22. Bad bosses create politics so don’t notice suck-ups. Get back to work and have a good weekend.

  2. People, especially people with big egos (which includes many leaders), are all too happy to accept flattery and not recognize it for what it really is. They think the person telling them the wonderful things and/or constantly agreeing with them has shrewd judgement or is smart enough to see things like they really are.

    It’s like the bias where EVERYONE thinks they are a good driver or smarter than the average. We believe we are better than most people so are highly subject to flattery and believe it to be a true reflection of ourselves.

    I like Gord’s point about being aware of who is flattering you on your team… I always look at who is the suck up to the leadership and forget to consider who is sucking up to me, again believing their kind words to me are true rather than manipulative.

    • Yup, you’ve nailed it. We can see it when people suck up to others, just not when they suck up to us. I better work on a Suck-up Detection Algorithm. But then why spoil a good thing? We all need a little undeserved flattery from time to time.


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