As a Career Executive Coach, I often work with clients looking for that next promotion. “When and how do I get promoted?” “Why haven’t I been promoted?”

I recall once being asked the question, “How can I get promoted without playing the office politics game?” This actually demonstrates a keen awareness that is, in fact, essential in advancement conversations. There is a political side to success in business, and it’s important to understand as it can contribute to your own career achievement.

A former boss once told me that politics are everywhere…any institution with people is bound to have politics because people are political. I remember not believing him at the time. I now believe what that old boss said so long ago. It really is human nature.

Given that politics are everywhere, it’s important to understand them in context and be savvy about what the political environment is for you.

For advice on office politics, I especially love Dilbert, the comic strip by Scott Adams. In my Corporate IT days, we truly related humorously to Dilbert’s stories and saw ourselves in most of the comic strips.

Here’s some of what Dilbert always knew:

The limitations of the pointy-haired boss: The pointy-haired boss was frequently a challenge to Dilbert’s intelligence and sanity. He often got it wrong and wasn’t a mentor to any of his employees.

What Dilbert could count on from his co-workers…Wally and Alice: He knew Wally wasn’t someone you could count on to get work done. Alice was very interested in upward mobility, yet had a certain bluntness to her communications.

What Dilbert could expect from his profession: As an engineer, he understood the challenges of the business and what implications this had. I remember one series where Dilbert competed against a monkey named Zimbu to keep his job. In fact, there were many monkey roles in Dilbert comics, ironically.

Dilbert shows us that you need to have a great relationship of mutual respect with your boss, as well as understanding the boss’s own political positioning. He also emphasizes that you take the time to know your peers…who can get things done in the organization. Finally, understand your own organization – corporation, startup, and everything in between, as well as your own profession.

Political savvy is knowing when to speak to whom about what. Knowing who can get things done for you and who can’t. A strong understanding of our goals and how those align with the political environment in which we find ourselves is helpful. Understand each personality and come up with strategies to handle.

Find a mentor, Career Coach, or trusted advisor who can help you navigate through the political environment. Where are the land mines and where are the safe spots? How do you get things done?

Take some time to map out the office politics you find yourself in. Look for the humor in the various relationships. Do you have a pointy-haired boss out there? Or maybe work with a Wally who’s just not too interested in doing a day’s work? It’s so important to laugh at ourselves as we navigate through this thing called office politics.

If there’s an office character in your office that is so difficult to get along with remember….if you don’t find ways to deal with them now (negotiation, not taking things personally, confronting), they have a habit of showing up again and again in your career, different names, and faces – same issues. Find a way to resolve them now by addressing the situation.

By the way, you can’t get promoted without office politics. Political savvy is a necessity at higher levels of the organization.


First of all, if you’re not familiar with Dilbert, I highly recommend one of the many books to get up to speed on his amazing world. Secondly, take some time this week to step back and look at the political landscape in your office. What do you need to do to build your political awareness? As a Career Executive Coach, I can help you put a plan together to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of office politics. Contact me.



Up Coaching LLC.

Lupe S. Wood, MS, PCC, is a certified Career/Executive Coach. She coaches individuals and leaders to career fulfillment, transition, and advancement. She also consults for results with businesses and solopreneurs. Her background includes 12 years in senior leadership for a Fortune 100 corporation and 7 years as a coach, with a Master’s degree in Organizational Effectiveness and Executive Coaching.


For more information, please visit my website at



Lupe Wood
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