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Stepping In The Middle of It

You’re a consultant. It’s Day One of your new engagement. Not too many people are smiling during this first meeting of stakeholders. In front of you is a 1” binder half full of unorganized paperwork on the project. You need to deliver something in 6 weeks. People don’t seem to be talking to each other – yelling maybe, but not talking. What have you gotten yourself into? Isn’t that why you became a consultant in the first place – so you could get away from office politics.

When asked how they dealt with office politics, here is how some fellow consultants answered:

First off, as a consultant, you are probably at this new engagement because the client needs something changed. Change can be hard. Listen. Listen to your supporters and detractors. Communicate. Pull out (or develop) your change management toolbox.

Show leadership. Help others around you to do their best, it pays you back.

Do your job well. That is why you are there (and getting paid). The organization has engaged you so they can be successful – help them get there.

Be loyal to the one who controls your contract. After all, if they are not happy with your approach and status in the office, chances are you won’t be there long.

Office politics is about power, not popularity. Get to know the informal power brokers. Some advocate becoming an informal power broker because some organizations value power sharing.

Get a hold of the current organization chart and learn it. It’s not a bad idea to take a look at previous organization charts too – you can learn a lot from how the organization has been changing.

Understand how this new organization measures success: By taking risks? By creating complex documents and graphics for senior management? By reporting to work at 7 am? Try adjusting your work approach to match the organization’s.
Try to be friendly to the coworkers on all sides of the political issues. Many times humor is the key to diffusing strong emotional responses to political situations. Be careful here.

Understand why some do not want you to succeed – talk to those co-workers. They probably won’t relent, but at least you will understand and speak to their viewpoint. As a consultant, there are many other tools you can use to deal with the client’s Office Politics.

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