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Studies show that people who possess political skills attain more personal power

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Politics is bubbling over into every aspect of our lives and work is no exception. Henry Mintzberg, author of “Power In and Around Organizations” said, office politics is just another influencing process along with norms, formal authority and expertise. Therefore, it is important for leaders to understand the forms it can take and how to use it for the well-being of the organization.

Studies show that people who possess political skills attain more personal power as well as managing stress and job demands, than their politically naive counterparts. They also have a greater impact on organizational outcomes. Therefore, in order for you to become comfortable with it, you need to equip yourself with a map of the political landscape and understand the sources of the political capital.

I came across an enlightening article by Michael Jarrett of Harvard Business School titled “The 4 Types of Organizational Politics”. Jarrett suggested that to understand the political challenges, you need to chart the political terrain which includes four metaphoric domains: the weeds, the rocks, the high ground and the woods.

According to Jarrett, to effectively navigate the landscape you need to know the level of political activity taking place and the extent of the source of power i.e. soft (informal) or hard (formal). “Soft power is implicit, making use of influence, relationships, and norms. Political activity based on ‘hard’, formal, or explicit power draws upon role authority, expertise, directives, and reward/control mechanisms.”

Understanding the two dimensions of power will help you to navigate the four metaphoric domains. Today, we begin with “The Weeds”. “In this quadrant, personal influence and informal networks rule. I call it ‘the weeds’ because it’s a dynamic that grows naturally, without any maintenance”, said Jarrett.

The weeds could be assets. An informal coalition could be formed to support a desired change. However, if the “weeds” are left unhindered, they could become a hindrance to organizational growth and a resistance to change and influence others to do the same.

To manage weeds, you must understand the informal networks that are at play and identify the key players. If the weeds are negatively impacting the organization, try to isolate them by maintaining a strong voice and by strengthening your connection with other networks. If they are useful leverage this to the benefit of the organization.

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