Though it’s unpleasant to admit it, there’s a lot more that goes into being successful at work than merely being good at the tasks you’re assigned.
It’s also about giving people the perception that you’re competent, getting the right people to like you, and — in some hostile workplaces — preventing your rivals from tearing you down.
Users on Quora recently discussed the question: “How do you win at office politics?“
1. Never let your guard down.
One of the trickiest parts of working in an office is conducting yourself professionally during work-related social events. While the company holiday party might be presented as a chance for you to put back a few beers and enjoy yourself, it’s important to remember that one wrong comment in a relaxed setting could tarnish the reputation you’ve spent all year building.
“‘Informal’ environments are a lie,” writes Quora user Michael O. Church. “Complainers (even justified ones) and blowhards still get shot in the head, in these ‘informal’ environments. It’s just not publicized.”
2. Be useful to your peers.
Quora user James Liu shares this piece of advice given to him by his father: “If you share your knowledge with others and do this well, you will never be redundant.”
While it might seem counterintuitive to help others learn the skills and information that could otherwise distinguish you from everyone else, doing so builds trust with your coworkers that could lead to them being your ally down the road.
Additionally, these people may be willing to pass along information to you, whether it’s a tip on how to do your job better or a heads up about a coming organizational shift at your company.
“When you expose yourself, you are bartering knowledge for trust,” Liu writes.
3. Don’t be a gossip.
It’s tempting to trash someone you’re competing for a promotion against while they’re not around, but speaking negatively about your coworkers can do more harm than good.
Quora user Nick Baily explains that people are smart enough to figure out that if you’re giving them the dirt about another one of your coworkers, you’re likely to do the same thing to them.
“When someone instigates a conversation where you would be inclined to b*** about another coworker and you don’t take the bait, you send a very strong message that you can be trusted in the other direction too,” he writes.
And when it comes to speaking negatively about those in power, it’s best to be very, very careful.
“Assume everything you say at work will be heard by the boss,” writes Alan Cagle.
4. Always be doing something — or at least try to look like you are.
At work, you’re essentially managing two different things — your actual productivity, and how that productivity is perceived by your bosses and peers.
Michael O. Church says you should avoid being seen doing useless activities at work like chit-chatting with your friends. This gives people the impression that your time is not particularly valuable and sends the message that the only thing you’re adding to the company is a likable personality.
If you don’t have anything to do, he recommends finding a skill you’d like to learn and working to get better at it.
“You’ll probably never get fired for reading machine learning papers on your computer (you’ll stay out of trouble, with your head down),” Church writes. “But you will get pushed out or demoted (eventually) if you project low status, and putting a visible low value on your time has that effect.”
5. Tactfully promote your accomplishments.
It’s hard to impress your bosses if they don’t know what a good job you’re doing. You can do this by taking a moment out of a one-on-one meeting with your manager to bring up the specific things you have done — winning a new client, updating the company’s employee handbook, etc.
Career coach Lea McLeod recommends in an article on The Muse that you put your personal achievements in the context of how they help the company meet its longterm goals, this way there’s no doubt about what you’re adding to the team.
To avoid sounding arrogant, make sure to spread praise to the coworkers who helped you succeed.
6. Know your purpose.
There’s no use trying to climb the corporate ladder if you don’t know why you’re doing it. Are you trying to make money to support your family? Do you have a desire to create products people love? Or is there some social goal you hope to achieve through business?
It’s important to keep what you’re trying to accomplish in mind at all times, otherwise you’ll lose focus of why want you wanted to excel at your company in the first place. And in some sense, that’s just as frustrating as not succeeding at all.
“Without purpose, you’re just playing a game and can’t expect anything to come of it,” writes Quora user Nick Yandell.
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