Management-level politics are very different from individual contributor politics. As an individual contributor, you can generally stay clear of office politics altogether if you wish. You can just keep you head down and do your work.

Management-level politics are very different from individual contributor politics. As an individual contributor, you can generally stay clear of office politics altogether if you wish. You can just keep you head down and do your work. Politics at the individual contributor level tend to be mostly related to:




Who gets the best office (or cube)

Who learns the newest technology

Who gets the best projects

Who doesn't get their sales region cut

Simply said, individual contributor politics are about you and your stuff.


Moving from being an individual contributor to a manager is like moving from being single to being married. Now it’s not all about you. It's still a little about you, but mostly, it is now about us, you and your spouse, you and your team. As a manager, your ability to play the game not only affects you, but it also affects the people in your department.


As a manager, your politics are still primarily with your peers, but now your peers are the other managers. You will find that your manager peer group is much better at office politics than the individual contributors you used to compete with. You will also find that you will still be fighting for some of the same things, like office space, projects, sales territory and the like, but they will be at the department level, rather than on an individual basis. There will also now, however, be new manager-level politics in areas such as:




Who works on which company-wide initiatives

How next year’s budget dollars are divided across departments

Which department gets to hire additional people

Who’s team member gets recognition for outstanding work at the annual company picnic

Who gets to be the new manager if two groups are merged into a single department

You may also find that some politics go away. For example, within the business analysis group, politics at the individual contributor level revolve around who gets what project. As the manager of that department, by default, you get all the projects. The politicking regarding specific project-related work is now under you. It’s your staff who will be fighting to get the best projects.


Most people think of office politics as always being bad, and something to be avoided. Well, sometimes office politics are bad, or at a minimum, expend unneeded energy that could be better spent on company initiatives. Sometimes, however, manager-level politics are actually good for you and/or your department and you should seek to participate. Like it or not, manager-level politics can help you get:




The resources your team needs to maximize productivity

Exciting new projects, recognition, promotions, salary raises, and/or bonuses for members of your team

Permission to hire additional staff so your current team members won’t be overworked

Personal recognition, promotion, salary raises, and/or bonuses

Lastly, office politics with your peers is like sports. You can't win them all. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. In either case, learn from what you did right and wrong and also learn from what your peers did right and wrong. Office politics is a place where you really can learn from (and take advantage of) the mistakes of others.


The primary advice and takeaway for today’s column is to know that:




As manager, your ability to play the game not only affects you but also your department

Sometimes manager-level politics is good for you, and you should seek to participate

Office politics is like sports, you can't win them all

For additional information on today’s topic, I suggest the book “Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success,” by Rick Brandon.


Until next time, manage well, manage smart and continue to grow.


Eric P. Bloom is president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC, a training company, and author of the award-winning book “Manager Mechanics: Tips and Advice for First-Time Managers.” Contact him at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or visit www.ManagerMechanics.com.