How to navigate and survive your firm’s politics
Why is this important?
In a firm, being politically savvy means that you can work with other people and get things done with minimum fuss or experiencing unnecessary issues with your colleagues or partners.
Political mistakes range from:
- Saying the wrong thing, either because of ignorance or because you just could resist doing so
- Creating competition, conflict or tension with influential people within your firm; and
- Acting inappropriately with clients, intermediaries or, people in your firm.
You need to be alert and aware your firm’s politics, able to handle this when you encounter it. Here are a few of my tips for navigating and surviving firm politics:
- Find out who are the real movers and shakers within your firm – not always the person with the important title. Could be a long serving PA.
- Work out who are the gatekeepers – who has access to influential people, the decision makers – people who may be involved in decisions about your career and future. Get to know them where possible.
- As senior people are often time poor, don’t waste their time if you have a meeting with them – Prepare for the meeting, stick to allocated time, better still finish ahead of time.
- Be flexible when spending time with a partner – if your time is cut short due to client demands, don’t moan, and understand that this is life in professional services: the Client always comes first.
- Have a contingency plan: summarise the points that you wanted to make in and email and send it to the partner.
- Engage your brain before speaking your mind. All toooften people get themselves into trouble by being too frank and annoy influential people - just because they ask you what you think, this does not mean that you should jump in with both feet!
- It can be a delicate ‘art’ – if you unwilling to say what you think, you may be seen as lacking guts or fearful. However, being to frank and open in your response could create unwanted conflict and tension for you.
- Weigh up the situation and the consequences before you speak your mind.
- Sometimes, it’s a good idea to let other people speak first and then take your cue from them.
- Gossip – avoid providing or sharing. It doesn’t take long before people find out what you have said about them. If you choose to gossip and pass on stories, it could be career-limiting if not immediately, then at a future point.
Questions to consider before you share some information:
- Why am I sharing this and how does it reflect on me?
- Do people really need to know this?
- Have I labelled facts as facts and opinions as opinions?
- Am I just showing-off?
Avoid sexist politically incorrect humour. What was funny and seen as acceptable a few years ago may be unacceptable today. As a simple rule: any humour that demeans or hurts or, makes fun of the difficulties people face is out. Such behaviour is also unprofessional.
Mutual respect and trust are the foundations of successful professional relationship, avoid making your career difficult for yourself by losing the hard-won respect and trust of your colleagues and partners.