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Special section 6 ways to get ahead in the office or get out

Office politics isn't a bad thing -- if you know how to play the game. Learn the unwritten rules and be a winner.

Play the office politics game

Let's play office politics! All you need are two people and the game begins.

Playing the game of office politics is inevitable. Oh, perhaps you believe that you're above such foolishness, but that's really just one more way to play the game. Office politics is simply human nature in the workplace. If you work with humans -- even if they only resemble humans -- then you are dealing with politics.

"If there's more than one person, you've got office politics," says Rob Sarmiento, a Houston psychologist, also known as the Cyber Psychologist. "Politics is essentially competition. Who's going to get a raise or a better job or special project or recognition?"

William E. Rosenbach, professor of management at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa., agrees.

"Change and ambiguity and uncertainty breed office politics," he says. "A lot of office politics involves people who are gatekeepers. They get power from knowing what's going on." And sometimes you have to deal with them to get your real job done.

"You're a fool to try to ignore (office politics)," Rosenbach sums up.

On that note, pick your game piece and meet me at GO.

Objective: You win if you don't permanently anger anyone and you advance in your career.

Rules: Oh, the rules? Rosenbach explains that one of the definitions of politics is that it includes nonsanctioned means of influence. In other words, the rules are unwritten. You learn them as you go along. Sarmiento recommends picking up hints through networking and observation. Perhaps we'll find a few important rules hidden below.

Players: This game requires a minimum of two players unless you're into playing mind games with yourself. Anyway, players include your boss, your boss's boss, co-workers, subordinates, the receptionist, and even the cleaning crew and customers.

Rule: Everyone's a player even if they don't know it.

Someone low on the totem pole may believe they are too junior for anyone to care what they do or think. Not so, says office politics expert Ronna Lichtenberg, author of "Work Would Be Great If It Weren't for the People."

When it comes to office politics, differing self-interests make everyone a player. Self-interests come into conflict because, "We don't understand why people want different things from ourselves," Lichtenberg says.

The next time co-workers start doing odd things around you, remember that everyone has their own objectives and goals. More often than not whatever your co-worker or boss is doing has absolutely nothing to do with you.

"The most profound thing to look out for is irrational people. They're doing things that they believe will work out for them in the short run," says Thomas Becker, associate professor of management in the department of business administration at the University of Delaware.

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