While Jansen advises that you should not compromise your core values to be political, if you find that you can’t ever engage in office politics without violating your core values, then you don’t belong in corporate America.
Jansen suggests five steps you can take to be more politically astute immediately:
1. Don’t try to change or resist company culture including dress, communication styles and office hours. Being different does not work.
2. Practice self-awareness. This is a life-long task and every day you can become a little bit more aware of how people perceive you. Just doing your job is not enough. You need to do it in a way that makes a positive impression on everyone else.
3. Manage your stress levels so you can avoid emotional displays of inconsistent behavior and inconsistent messages. Most emotional outbursts come from unmanaged stress.
4. Be approachable all the time – in your cube, in the hallway, even in the bathroom.
5. Network before you need to network. Being good at politics means that you are good at relationship building, and you can count on a wide range of people when you need them.
But some people will never feel comfortable playing the political game. For those people, Stybel recommends a job where one can say, “Leave me alone” and still excel at the work: Sales would be a definite no, but a career in, say, programming might work. But take a look at yourself. If you don’t have the skills for a leave-me-alone job, you need the skills to make office politics work for you. Otherwise you’ll get stuck.