Illuminating Office Politics: The 3-Point Theory

In photography and filmmaking there is something known as a 3-point lighting theory. It’s the most effective lighting setup to ensure you nail your ‘money shot.’ In my years of studying the sphere of Office Politics, I’ve come to realize that there are three core principles that shape your ability to get your million-dollar photo opportunity. I’ll be focusing on these in greater detail through twitter and blogging for the duration of 2016, so for now let’s highlight our top-level blueprint for the 3-Point Theory of Office Politics.

1. Work Smart within Your Office Culture. It’s critical to master the details of how the company operates. If you don’t fit in to your office culture, there is little to save you. This culture determines how to behave in the office. There is a daily rhythm, a general flow of production and often times you will hear someone say, “This is how things get done.”  Listen and watch, then adapt.  If you want to change or challenge the culture, you can do so — after you have been accepted and conquered the current culture. It’s like learning the rules of photography before you break them. Some office culture basics include:

·      Clothing Culture: Follow the leaders.  Dress like them.  They are setting the tone.   You don’t need to over think this, if you follow the leaders.  If it’s casual, do it but remember to never have holes, snags, tears or worn out fabrics on your body. More formal, button up!

·      Check Your Timing: When do people normally flow in and when do they leave?  What does your boss and other leaders do? Are they in at 10 a.m. and leave at 6 p.m.? Follow their lead.

·      Communication Culture:  This is the language and communication style of the office.  What words or phrases does your boss use? Leaders? Respected colleagues? Are presentations short, long, in pink and purple? Are meetings short and to the point or long and drawn out with every detailed covered? “Adopt the Lingo, Lois!”

2. Consider Generational Dynamics:  Life expectancies are lengthening.  It’s a fact.  As a result, our need to understand intergenerational office dynamics is critical. Mastering typical generational values, traits, preferences and styles can improve workplace effectiveness, harmony, retention, and recruitment. Some illuminating good rules of thumb are:

·      Show RESPECT. How? Listen without distraction.  Engage in conversation, show empathy and be patient.

·      MENTORship goes both ways. Freshman to experienced and experienced to freshman. Recognize that with experience comes wisdom and with youth comes a fresh perspective. Ask help from each other.  It’s a good thing.

3. Work the Global Workplace: It’s a global economy now, and diverse talent pools are the basis for most companies. To be effective as a leader it is critical to understand cultural differences like work habits, diet, commonly held religious beliefs, views of the opposite sex (especially treatment of women), and even alcohol consumption. The get-to-know your co-workers checklist includes:

·      Learn basic CUSTOMS and cultural distinctions such as contractual obligations, tipping, negotiating tactics and what is considered rude vs. polite behavior.

·      Find COMMON GROUND – Learn how to say their names properly and learn what sports / food / weather / family traditions you have in common.

Focus on your 3-Point Theory of Office Politics: Office Culture, Generational Dynamics, and Global Workplace and you’ll be shooting your power pose and award winning corporate headshot in no time.

Jocelyn Greenky
About the author: 

Jocelyn Greenky is the CEO of Sider Road Media, in New York.  Her career includes management positions at Philip Morris and Dow Jones, in addition to executive leadership roles on Men’s Journal and Rolling Stone productions. Ms. Greenky has also been a Columnist for the Huffington Post.  Follow Jocelyn on Twitter.