Office Politics: Discover Your Hidden Superpower!

I am going to share with you 2 examples from my own work history about the effects of office politics, that how it can destroy or make your career. In the first example, I am the loser. This was when I worked for Standard & Poor’s and got brutally fired with security escorting me outside. Yeah 🙂  It was that bad… It was Jerry Maguire bad. We are going to talk about that soon.

And the second experience is with PwC Consulting, and luckily, this time I am the winner.

After I share with you these stories, then I’ll teach you systemically, what you can do

to make sure office politics work for you, instead of against you.

 

So, the first story. This was back in 2007 or early 2008 I think. So, I was working for Standard & Poor’s. Imagine, I built this beautiful life for me in a foreign country, in South East Asia, where I was an expatriate. I was slowly building network, had great friends, was sailing in a local yacht club, bought my own little boat, you know just a nice life. I just loved my life. When everything was going great, at work, there was this lady, her name was – let’s call her Jenny. I don’t want to say she was a total bitch, but she was a total bitch. Totally manipulative, sneaky, let me get in your pants then I’ll play with you kind of girl But she was so hot! I mean she was Jennifer Connolly hot. Like she’d be considered in the danger zone at Universal Hot/Crazy Matrix. Sorry, I digress. She was like one of those girls you’d only see in movies, you wouldn’t think they exist in real life. The kind that would do anything to get promoted.

Anyway, I was fairly good at my job and people around me respected me well enough to ignore any negative messaging coming from her. In addition, everybody knew her pretty well. So, she wasn’t very effective in her blaming campaigns.

Until…

Until when our country director resigned and then replaced by this total womanizer idiot. I mean if you are going to be a womanizer, at least don’t be an idiot. If you are going to be an idiot, then don’t be a womanizer. That’s basically the perfect combination of character traits Jenny was waiting for. So, he comes in and This Jenny girl hatches on to him.

I remember a particular instance very clearly. The new Country Director comes and introduces himself in a meeting to the entire team, and Jenny is like; yeah I am gonna have a lot of fun with you… Welcome to my playground… Really, she had that look on her face!

What followed was absolutely nothing short of a remarkable chain of events which ended up her being promoted to be the manager of our entire department. I mean not the manager of her business unit, no… THE WHOLE FREAKING DEPARTMENT with 100s of analysts. 1 week. , wait for it; not only she gets that promotion within 1 week, she also manages to get me fired! Yes, everything happened within 1 week!

1 week.

So, a week ago, I presumably had a perfect life, great name employer, good salary, totally wild expatriate lifestyle. I mean I had it all. A week later, I was out on the street. Escorted out by the security.

 

So, I can’t really share with you the kind of things she did to achieve those results publicly here. For 2 reasons really, 1) I don’t want to show such a horrible thing she did as a working example, and 2) It would make my YouTube channel PG18. Having said that, if you haven’t subscribed yet, please do subscribe. IN fact, hit that bell icon so you can be immediately notified of new weekly videos. And if it’s not too much to ask, I’d appreciate a thumbs up as well.

Sorry, I digress.

Let me continue. There are many strong lessons learned here. And that’s the reason I am sharing this story with you. Lessons learned is the power of office politics when played right. It’s incredibly effective. Also, maybe another lesson learned is that your life can turn upside down faster than you can imagine. 1 week. Also, one more lesson learned is that never underestimate the power of smart, motivated, and malicious people.

This whole ordeal completely wrecked my life. Because, at that time, I didn’t have a house to go back to. My family had kicked me out of my home, so I didn’t have a family nor a home to get back to. To make matters worse, I didn’t even have a home country to get back to, because I was sort of a military fugitive. Not a fugitive. Fugitive is a strong word. I was requested to serve in the military which at the time I didn’t agree to. And the military wasn’t really willing to negotiate with me. So, we had a bit of a misunderstanding about that.

Now, let’s move on to 2nd story. This story is a better one and a lot less emotional. It’s a good one. Now, this happened with PwC Consulting in Dubai in the year 2012 I think. When I joined the firm, I joined as an assistant manager in our strategy consulting department. This time, I was going to work my ass off, plus, use the office politics for my benefit to become a manager in my first year in the firm. See, at the time, it had never happened before in my region. The soonest any Assistant manager could become a Manager is after 2 years of serving with very high-performance grades but more likely in 3 years or sometimes never. So, my goal was to become a manager within 1 year. To achieve such an ambitious task, I had to be very good at my job, delivering amazing projects on time, on budget with clients being very happy with our deliverables.  But having had the “Jenny experience” before, now I knew that I had to use office politics to work for me.

So, this story has a great ending. I did become a manager in my first year in the firm.  That was unheard of. I was really proud of what I achieved. And it came with a new salary increase and bonus and a few other perks which I was really happy about.

Now, let me share with you how I did it.

 

Office politics at its core is just the art of conveying the right message to right people at the right time. That’s what it is. You can use it for good, or you can use it for bad. But either way, it is what it is.

Another fact about office politics is it’s inevitable. If you are not doing it, I can assure you that someone else is…

So, let me share with you what my grand plan was which allowed me to get promoted in record time.

Step 1: Deliver great work at the projects I serve in that year. And whenever it’s possible, sign up for the toughest projects. That’s usually when I shine. Whenever shit hits the fan, I tend to save the day. I am usually good at crisis situations or in highly complex projects.

Step 2: Identify the primary stakeholders that will join the panel and make that promotion decision. So, in my case, I had Rami, Sally, and Emad. They are all senior partners in the firm.

Step 3: Identify the secondary stakeholders that have direct access to primary stakeholders that will make my promotion decision. So, in this case, I identified around 5 directors who worked with the 3 primary stakeholders.

Step 4: Figure out exactly what skills and traits they are looking for.

Step 5: Communicate those skills and leadership traits to those secondary stakeholders for them to communicate to my primary stakeholders.

Step 6: Execution. For the execution, I also did a bit of mapping study. So, within that year, I worked in around 8 large projects. So, I picked 5 of those projects, identified a skill or a character trait that showed my capabilities with examples from my projects. Then, each person in that secondary stakeholder group was communicated only 1 of those qualities. I also made sure they convey that message to the senior partners.

This worked like a charm. My decision to get promoted, while on paper it looked like the most difficult decision to make was passed unanimously within 5 minutes.

So, the panel chair opens my file, asks the panel; does Deniz have the leadership capabilities for a manager? Then Sally jumps and says yeah he does. He worked with me on this education strategy project for this client, and according to Tom (Tom was the Director), Deniz did a really good job in there. Tom tells me that he was particularly impressed by how Deniz handled that expansion project for ABC Education in their global expansion project.

Hmmm.

Then Rami asks, how about for this; then another panel member says yes he does. According to my director Ronald, Deniz did great work in this project, clearly showing his project execution capabilities.

See, I left no room for a chance. I had already communicated all the messages in advance. There was not even a discussion.

My strategy relied on giving the right message to these secondary stakeholders for them to give that message to primary stakeholders.

I did it this way, instead of directly communicating with the decision makers because well simply; you can’t talk your way into such a big promotion. You can say you are the best management consultant, but it makes no effect on these guys. But if that message comes from people they trust including directors or even more importantly, clients. Then it’s a completely different ball game. So, that was my strategy.

Let’s break it down for you.

Step 1: Define Your Goals

It’s impossible to succeed at anything if you don’t know what you are aiming for. That’s why it’s essential to set clear goals and develop a plan to follow through on them.

Step 2: Develop a Strategy

Your strategy is by far the most critical element in your success.

I am not going to talk about how to develop a strategy from A to Z here. You don’t need such complex strategy. All you need is simply figure out,

  • What do you want
  • Who are the key decision-makers for that to happen? In simple terms, where does the power lie?
  • Then, who are the influencers to those key decision makers with power.
  • What message should be communicated to each of these influencers
  • When should these messages be communicated
  • And finally, you need the answers of these 5 questions in some sort of a very simple execution plan with a timeline. You can do a simple Gantt chart for this. You can use a slide like this;

That’s pretty much it.

In this very simple plan, there are a few enablers that are critical that you get them right.

So, you want to influence the influencers right? Influencers of those who are in power or in other terms, decision makers. So, in order for this to happen; you need to have built relations with those.

Now, this is critical. You can’t influence an influencer if you don’t have a positive relation with that person. Otherwise, the message you want to them relay will just get depowered. Depowered? I am not sure that’s the right term.

Anyway, here is how you can do it. First; recognize the fact that you can’t influence anyone if you are not around them. This doesn’t always mean you have to be there physically though. I mean physical interaction definitely triumphs over any other means of communication but other methods also work to a lesser extent.

So, before you get to the “ask” part. Which is you asking them to talk about your successes and convey that message to the decision maker? So, that’s your ask. Yeah, before you can get to the “ask”, you need to have already built a relationship with them. And if they are indebted to you, then you will have a lot more success.

So, there are various ways you can make that happen. If you watched my other videos, you already know how I feel about reciprocity. It’s the concept that you give something valuable to someone and that they feel indebted to give you something back. It’s a subconscious process.

So, you can definitely use that. It can be a report that they need, introduction to a potential client, solving a particular problem for them. Whatever works. And once they feel they are indebted to you, then trust me they’ll talk about you to those decision makers like the SUPERMAN you are.

The second method to get something you want is using leverage. While it works fine, I suggest you stay away from using leverage. Leverage is basically, if you do this then you get this. Using leverage may get you what you want but in the long term it won’t help you build the relationships you need. Just follow my first suggestion. You help them first, then they’ll have the need to reciprocate. You don’t need a leverage.

Alright, that’s it for this week. If none of these strategies work for you and you are unhappy at work, or you are looking to explore more career opportunities with multinational firms, I strongly recommend you check out my LIG program. LIG is all about creating more interviews and opportunities for your career. The link to register should be in the description box.

And finally, please subscribe to my channel if you haven’t already done so. And if you happen to share this video on LinkedIn, please also add me to your connections in LinkedIn. It would be great to stay in touch.

Great! See you next week!