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The Secret of How Women Leaders Can Navigate Office Politics

Tags:  Women co-workers, Women and office politics

Florence loved her job as a nurse and even chuckled along with her coworkers when they began calling her ""Nightingale"" because she thought is was their way of giving support.

Then she found out they were really ridiculing her and talking about her behind her back because they felt her sing-songy ways and sugary platitudes were a way to suck up to the doctors and management in the hope of landing a position on that team.

Bullying, gossiping, backstabbing, and such have all become part of the work environment making a difficult climb to the top even harder for women who now have to prove their worth to their male colleagues while their female colleagues race them for the few available seats at the table.

This doesn't mean you should hide your head in the sand or give up on your dream of climbing the ladder to career success. It does mean, however, that you need to become politically adept in order to navigate office politics.

Here are five steps for you to take:

Step 1. Jo Miller, CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching Inc., suggests reframing your mindset by substituting the term ""organizational awareness"" for office politics. By improving your ""organizational awareness"" you are more likely to see who the informal players are behind the formal organizational chart in order to understand the culture and power base within your organization.

Step 2. Be patient and observe your environment and your co-workers to learn who truly holds the power -- things like respect, influence, and commitment -- in the organization.  And be quiet -- until you understand the dynamics of your organization -- so you can avoid saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.

Step 3. Develop solid relationships. Identify the best people to build alliances with – those who have clout as well as the respect of others in the organization. Offer them your support and know they will be there for you in return. Building this network provides you access to information and plum opportunities.

Step 4. Focus on building your credibility and visibility by developing a reputation as the go-to person, solidifying your integrity and dependability by meeting your commitments and being authentic, and willingly stepping up as a team player.

Step 5. Avoid those behaviors seen as typically ""female"". The five most common ""female"" behaviors are

  • Emotional reactions and hurt feelings
  • Apologizing, even if you've done nothing wrong
  • Uncertainty or ""conditional speech"" (""maybe we could do this"")
  • Giving away power by allowing someone to interrupt
  • Being part of a clique

It's tough enough trying to earn the respect you deserve and move your career forward in a male-oriented world without having to deal with the petty annoyances of office politics. By working together to help each other women have a better chance of finding their way to the top of the ladder.

And once you have…reach back and take the hand of the woman behind you to give her some help.

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