Do you know where the secret sources of power lie with your organisations?
All companies are made up of an individual or a group of individuals working towards achieving or delivering an objective. Those of us who have worked successfully within a number of companies understand that politics plays a huge role over your career. Whether it be navigating up through your chosen career ladder, or asking for someone to prioritize something, it’s important to understand the office politics. Its not a perfect situation, however all people have bias and opinion and, unless processes are put in place, it will affect how you are treated.
Different individuals in companies hold different levels of power, however, this power can be split into 2 categories. Official power and backdoor power.
Official power, as the name suggests obviously increases as one moves up through a company’s hierarchy. It also changes per department, i.e. someone in HR will hold a different level of power than someone who is working in operations, even if they are both on the same level in the hierarchy.
Official power also changes based on the individual. For example, a great leader who’s engaged would hold a great level of power than someone who is passive, this is driven by the great leaders ability to bring people along with themselves and so expand their network of advocates supporting their position within the organisation.
The other type of power relates to backdoor power (also can be known as shadow power). People who hold backdoor power have influence without being seen to have influence. Even though the name makes it seem quite negative, it’s something that is neither good or bad.
People with the greatest backdoor power are the masters are using political skill to grow their networks and help people achieve their goals. They are the person who you go to in order to get things done, or the person you want to run your ideas past before taking it to management. It can also be open to abuse though. There are no controls, no processes and no protections around someone being negatively affected as it’s not something that officially exists. The wrong person may get a promotion or even the prioritisation of the wrong work flow due to the person with the backdoor power.
There are some tips around backdoor power which could help all employees around backdoor power.
Accept that backdoor power exists.
Watch people when they make decisions and engage in the office. Mentally map out relationships to determine where backdoor power is coming from.
Identify the employees with backdoor power
Who is respected and mentioned as a role model
Who gets mentioned in positive stories and jokes
Who knows everything that’s going on
Who can get away with bending the rules
Who is an advisor to the boss
Understand how information flows
Trusted people may see information first. Leadership may be asking their opinion on things before they get announced to the wider team. Remember, information will flow both ways.
Cultivate the relationship
Once you have identified the person with the backdoor power, create a relationship with that person. It will come in useful at some point in your time at the organisation.
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