Dr. Madeline Ann Lewis is President/CEO of the Executive Women’s Success Institute, a 22-year Army veteran, creator of the online course “Crack The Career Code: Unlock The Amazing Power Within To Lead With Confidence, Charisma, and Credibility”, host of the Success 4 Women Radio/TV Show, Career Strategist, International TEDx Speaker, International Bestselling Author, Trainer, and Business Consultant. She helps women progress in their career into upper management and executive level positions by providing them with a fast track, yet comprehensive toolkit of life skills and abilities. She also helps women who are transitioning out of the workplace into business entrepreneurship. Dr. Lewis has numerous awards and accolades. And…she was just selected for the 2022 Veteran Champions of the Year (VCOY)” in Corporate America” list. The 2022 VCOY Corporate list honors 30 champions who advocate for our nation’s veterans in the civilian workforce. Her mission is to “Help Women Accelerate Their Path to Success.”
Office politics! That dreaded word that most women in the workplace do not want to utter or even want to believe exists.
Yet office politics are a fact of corporate life; the reality is that politics is how power is managed on a practical basis daily in the workplace. This power, however, can be used unfairly against women.
Women often tell me how their work life sucks because they must deal with manipulative and vindictive coworkers or a manager who is deliberately mistreating and abusing his power against them even though they are excellent at their jobs. In cases when women decide to stand up for themselves and inform Human Resources (HR) hoping to bring some change to their situation, they find out that even HR do not believe them, and the manager is absolved of all wrongdoing. Women walk out of these meetings feeling confused, upset, and gaslit.
Let’s be honest here, it is not uncommon for bright smart, hard-working women to end up getting walked over, and beaten down. But you did not need me to tell you that, because as a woman trying to climb the corporate ladder, you have probably experienced that one too many times. And since business is about competition, your coworkers and managers are competing for budgets, opportunities, promotions, recognition, bigger salaries, and, of course, power.
Women often go to work with the mindset to refuse to play the political game, and instead focus on their jobs and work hard in the hopes of being noticed and rewarded for their efforts. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of the workforce, and because of this naivety, women often end up getting burned, some even end up at the therapist’s office or having to quit their job for their sanity and happiness.
According to a research report published by The Center for Work-Life Policy, in a recent survey, 68% of women dislike office politics.
There is a definite need for a mindset change among women. Move from thinking about office politics as being sleazy to it being a means to exert genuine influence and a tool for career advancement, an activity that requires a high degree of social astuteness, one that requires a good grasp of IQ and EQ.
How Women can Lean into Office Politics the Right Way
To win office politics, women need to first comprehend and accept that they will have to deal with office politics throughout their working years. This means that you can run but you won’t be able to hide. The best way is to lean into it and learn all about it so it won’t affect you. And here lies the problem, many women do not know how to do this on their own and thus stay stagnant in their careers.
What can Women do
Women can seek support from other women who have successfully navigated the corporate world and reached the top in the form of mentorship. A female mentor can offer guidance and support to women less experienced with workplace politics. Mentors can teach women how to navigate the subtle wars happening in the office and provide inspiration and a different perspective. The idea is for the mentor to impart their knowledge and hard-learned lessons to help the mentee’s career.
How can Mentors help
Female executives know the game. They played it strategically and won. Having a woman who’s reached the top of corporations help mentor you is thus extremely helpful. Here is what a mentor can teach you:
- How to prepare: Office politics is especially tricky for women. 81% of women said that women are judged more harshly than men when they are seen as “engaging in corporate politics.” Thus women must prepare every day to handle their tasks, meetings and the criticism they will eventually receive.
- Understanding the political landscape: Understand the details of the power structures in your organization. Connect with key influencers and focus your energy and efforts only on these relationships. Engage with these colleagues on a more personal level. Look for opportunities to go on luncheons, coffee breaks, and events with them. Send them birthday cards, celebrate anniversaries, and other personal milestones.
- Why you should not gossip: Be tactful and do not engage in gossip at the workplace. Never engage in conversations that disparage other colleagues. It is toxic and will come back to haunt you.
- Have allies: Allies will help you climb the corporate ladder, so have multiple allies. Your allies can give you advice, campaign for you during promotion meetings, etc.
Office politics in the workplace will always exist so instead of sulking over it, it is time to think bigger about it. Women can accumulate influence and ascend in their careers with big, bold ideas. To ensure success in their career, women can seek coaching from established executives to think bigger, aim higher, and show up with confidence. Only by being truly self-confident can we influence others to follow us.