How to Win at Office Politics (It’s a bit Like Football)

Jul 31, 2015

How to Win at Office Politics (It’s a bit Like Football)

Seeing Office Politics like a game of Football

Office politics are a real thing. There are many ways about how to handle situations, act accordingly and ultimately... win, just like a game of football!


Get to know your teammates

  • You don’t have to be best friends or go on holiday with them, but do try to show genuine interest in finding out more about each of them.
  • Everyone is interesting if you care enough to ask the right questions.


Learn how to pass

  • If you’re working on a task or project that required a team effort and you did the lions share, a great job, don’t grab the limelight. Give credit around, be a good team player.

Help your teammates out by finding space so they can pass

  • If you see a co-worker struggling or know that someone could use an extra hand, help them out.

Play up to the last second

  • Another fundamental of office politics is to keep focused and keep going right to then end. Second chance opportunities always seem to present themselves if you know where to find them.
  • If your boss or co-workers have to miss a meeting, offer to jump right in and take their place.

Keep your hands up at all times

  • Don’t be afraid to take on unpopular projects that no one wants.
  • If you volunteer for a challenging project and succeed, it will go in your favour.
  • If it did not succeed where no one thought it was possible anyway, it will be chalked up as experience.

Scout out your competition

  • Don’t think for a second that you don’t have competitors.
  • These workers can be above you, below you, but more often than not they are working right beside you fighting for that same promotion. This is what office politics is all about.
  • Your competition probably already knows your Excel or PowerPoint skills are not what they should be. It’s a good idea to have a firm grasp on their strengths and weaknesses as well, gives you an idea where you can support them.

Stand in the wall for free kicks

  • You know that daily 30 minute meeting that everyone hates to go to because it seems to drag on forever?
  • These meetings are like standing in the wall. They might look ordinary, but they are the single most important part of the day. Not only are you usually in a room with the people who have the most influence over your next promotion, but you are being judged on this stage every day.
  • Do yourself a favour; be prepared for these meetings because playing office politics demands it. Even if you don’t have much to say, always be prepared to say something. If you are not in the wall, you can be assured your competition is waiting to plug that gap.


Seek out a veteran or legend to mentor you

  • The easiest way to know the road ahead is to ask those who have travelled the route before.
  • Realise that everything you are about to do on the job has pretty much been done before.
  • Yes, you may be smart with a degree and all, but to veterans you’re really not that “special one” (yet).
  • Seek out a well-respected person in the organisation to help mentor you.
  • Pay attention to their communication style, network of relationships, and the types of proposals they say "yes" to most often.
  • Emulate those traits by drawing on the strengths you have.

Don’t score an own goal

  • One of the most overlooked fundamentals of office politics is not to score an own goal!
  • When given a special project/task by the boss or the boss’ boss, take this as a sign of trust that you are progressing.
  • Stay late, check your work, and seek advice from your teammates and mentors. But whatever you do, don’t score an own goal by taking your eye of the target or you might not get another chance for a while.


Play hard and stay focused for both half’s - even in extra time and penalties

  • Don’t let others ever see you goofing off or taking it easy, unless it is part of team bonding with everyone.
  • If the boss is out of the office, this is actually the time you should commit to working harder.
  • Don’t take advantage of the situation by taking a longer lunch or slacking off on assignments.
  • Others in the office are keenly aware of your performance while the boss is away. Don’t give them any reason to throw you under the bus.


Wear the captain’s armband with pride

  • It’s never about who is in charge, but who takes charge.
  • You don’t have to be team captain to be a leader; true leadership comes from the heart and is measured in passion, commitment and leading from example.
  • Winning at office politics is really about watching how you carry yourself.
  • Take ownership of your mistakes and never blame anyone apart from the processes and systems.

Do post-game interviews

  • Communicate, clearly, concise and accurately
  • Control your narrative before others do.
  • Ask others what they think of your performance and where they think you can improve. This is easy to do around review time since everyone is worried about their own situation.
  • If you’re not happy with the current PR you’re receiving, then change it as someone else is controlling your story.
  • Take steps to fix it and get the narrative straight.
  • If you want to be known as the tireless worker who is first in and last to leave, then act like it.

Shake hands at the end of the game

  • Even if you leave an organisation on bad terms, don’t burn any bridges with anyone. The odds are high that you will see some of these people again in your career.
  • Remember: “make many friends and no enemies”


Office politics, or how power and influence are managed in your organisation, will be a part of your career whether you choose to participate or not.

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