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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

The Cost of Not Playing the Game

Something that’s on my mind lately is the concept of navigating “office politics.” 

I hear some people say they simply refuse to engage. They decide to “keep their heads down” and opt out of that zaniness. And in a lot of ways, I get it! Politics can be ugly. We’ve all seen someone get turned down for a promotion or pushed out of a spot due to some complicated set of interpersonal politics that seemed to have nothing to do with their job performance and everything to do with how they got on with the team. 

But the truth is that "playing the game" is totally doable without this kind of petty backstabbing, because it's really not about conniving your way to the top, but about participating in the social world of your workplace. And that's something you can absolutely do with integrity. 

If you don’t play that game, the cost of that decision is what I experienced years ago: working hard yet not experiencing upward mobility. 

If you're comfortable exactly where you are today, and you don't have aspirations to lead a team or head up an initiative, then you're good. Keep doing what you're doing. It's totally valid to not want to shake something up. But if you have the smallest desire to grow more, learn more, and gain more visibility, then you have got to play the game. People need to get to know you, you have to talk at the water cooler, you have to figure out how to joke around in a way that helps you connect with people. You have to develop an understanding of how your team members think and work, and you have to divert more energy into being liked by your team.

And believe me, I understand that this isn't an easy or comfortable task all the time, but if you can stick with it, it will pay off in spades. Workplace politics are fundamentally about relationships, and like every relationship in your life, the quality of your relationships are about the choices you make.

You can play the game by backstabbing and maneuvering, sure, but you can also do it by lifting others up and behaving with integrity. It's not Game of Thrones, guys. I think that the perception is that "doing politics" means you're doing something dirty that compromises your sense of self, which is why so many people decide to completely opt out of it and sacrifice their own career growth. But in my years of playing the game, I can honestly say that it doesn't have to be like that.

So I ask you: Is playing the game worth it to you? If the answer is yes, then get in the ring and play the game with your full, authentic self and reap the benefits. 

If you want help stepping your game up and throwing your hat in the ring, let's connect! Sign up for a free consultation, and we can examine some of the ways you can start playing big in your office.

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