How to Play office politics

You either love politics, or you don't, but office politics are entirely different than your local elections. It could mean respect, raises, or could even mean your job. Just staying out of it could stunt your career. Here's how to jump in and get ahead – without getting burned.

Step 1: Observe how things work
Observe how your workplace functions. Pay attention to the company's core values and how they most effectively get put into action. Also find out who is influential and take note of what they respond to.

Step 2: Set clear goals
Set objectives with your boss that contribute to the company's goals and develop your value as an employee. Inform your boss when you meet certain benchmarks to create a track record of goal-oriented success.

Step 3: Gain allies
Get the support of coworkers by reciprocating favors and offering your expertise on projects.

Only accept a manageable workload. In the long run, coworkers will respect you more if they know you have the power to say "no."

Step 4: Branch out
Build a network that incorporates several different groups and departments. Aligning yourself too strongly with one could leave you out in the cold if they fall out of favor.

Step 5: Sidestep gossip
Sidestep gossip. The target of gossip one day could be a decision-maker the next. If you find yourself in the middle of a nasty exchange, excuse yourself, or focus the conversation on the people talking, not the person being talked about.

Step 6: Brag tactfully
Brag. Just make sure to do it tactfully, and always give your coworkers credit for shared accomplishments. Telling people about your accomplishments increases the chances your boss will learn of your successes from someone other than you, which works in your favor when they're deciding who gets a promotion, and who get the ax.

In a recent survey, more than half of employees said the competitive level of office politics had increased over the previous five years.

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