In theory... Political intelligence

Emma De Vita's weekly look at management-speak.

Unfortunately, office politics are the bane of many a manager's life - an inescapable part of everyday work. And no matter how much you try to deny it, it's difficult to get away from the fact that bottom-kissing still works wonders in the office. Never mind hard work or talent - for some, the only way to get ahead is by working the system. There's even a term for it now: political intelligence. Up your PI quotient, say the experts, and the only barrier between you and your boss's job is those who are less politically astute.

Here's how to do it. First, accept that politicking is a central component of human behaviour. No matter how much you detest it, get off your high horse and embrace the approach of Sir Humphrey Appleby from Yes Minister.

Now you've adopted the right attitude, butter up the boss. Sad though it is, a heavy dose of flattery will compensate for any shortfall in competency. Don't forget to big up your achievements as well. Haven't got any? Just borrow from others.

Next, in true Machiavellian style, work out who holds the power, then do your utmost to draw their attention to you. If you can't think of a work reason to engage them in conversation, find out what they like to do in their spare time - golf, football, knitting - swot up on it, engineer an accidental meeting and then show off your interest. You're their new best friend.

Finally, spare no effort in undermining colleagues who might be better than you. Find fault in their work, offer solutions to problems they have apparently created and you'll find that any would-be rivals will fall by the wayside.

If all this leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, or you find that your PI quotient is non-existent, don't despair. There are many enlightened managers who think office politics are neither funny nor clever. They ignore the political shenanigans of the office - the gossip and back-stabbing - and concentrate on doing a good job instead. It might take you longer to get to the top, but you'll be polishing your halo when you get there.

- Emma De Vita is a senior section editor on Management Today.

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