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Make Politicking At Work Relational Not Transactional

This article was based on episode 121 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get access to an encore interview with Chrisa on The Power of One when you become a member at

If you feel squeamish about politicking in the workplace, you’re not alone. Most people associate politicking with manipulating others to get what you want. As a consultant, executive coach, and educator, Chrisa Zindros Boyce wants to reorient our perspective. Imagine if politicking was actually about building healthy, mutually beneficial relationships with colleagues.The purpose, Chrisa emphasizes, is not transactional but relational. We politic by spreading goodwill, trust, and support in the workplace through building one-on-one relationships. Chrisa leads us here through best practices for politicking successfully in the workplace.


1. Redefine Politicking For Yourself

Do a rush of fears come up when you think about politicking? Do you worry that people will think you’re conniving, slimy or only out for yourself? Let go of your outdated view of politicking as “if you give me this, I’ll give you that,” and instead adopt a mindset that politicking is about creating a win-win relationship.

2. Build Rapport With People First

Politicking often feels bad because it lacks authenticity of relationships. Why would we expect anyone to provide support if we haven’t invested the time to get to know them. When we like and trust people, it’s easier both to ask for help. And when others like and trust us, it's not only easier to say yes to our request, it often feels good to do so. Before you make an ask, you need to set the relationship foundation. Do this by getting to know them, sharing who you are, and giving or offering help when you can.

3. Make Clear It’s Not About You

If you bypass what someone cares about, and only focus on what you care about, you're immediately going to hurt credibility and cause the person to second guess you. Make clear through your actions that you are more concerned about the “We” than the “I”. Managers need to show that they can set aside their personal wants and preferences for the sake of what’s best for the team.

4. Get To Know Both Those Above And Below You

It’s important to build relationships with everyone, including the people you manage, your boss and your boss’ boss. As you seek out people to connect with, consider those who are influential in your organization, those who can cheer you on, and those who can support you. We often forget people who report to us or are below us in rank are just as important to our success as the people above or on par with us. If your team members don’t know who you are, what you care about, or just don’t like you, they’re not going to put in the extra effort to achieve goals or execute in a timely manner.

5. Reach Out For Connections

Be clear about who you want to get to know and find ways to get to know those people. Ask your boss or a colleague to make an introduction. Put in a request to attend a meeting that you know people on your list will be attending. When you connect, set up coffee or cocktail (over Zoom or in person) to simply learn more about who this person is and what they care about.

6. Invest Daily In Giving Practices

Invest in practices that build up your reputation in the organization as someone who is giving, collaborative, welcoming, and supportive. Whenever you see an opportunity to help, step up and offer. In addition, mark times in your calendar for relationship building activities. These don’t need to be fancy. Simply popping by a coworker’s office to check in or sending a text or email to let them know that you are thinking about them is all it takes.


Every work relationship has a set of responsibilities and a rapport. The responsibilities are what we feel obligated or are required to do by the nature of being in the relationship. The rapport is how we feel about the other person. For example, we may greatly enjoy the company of a colleague but be frustrated that she frequently turns in work late and is not proactive about informing you of changes to the timeline. In this case, the relationship is out of equilibrium. No matter how much you like her, you probably don’t trust her with additional responsibilities.

The same is true when the scales tip the other direction. You may have a colleague who is high performing in their work quality, but who you find grating. You may offer opportunities to other colleagues who you find more enjoyable to work with.

To successfully politic, we need to both deliver on work responsibilities and have a healthy rapport. What matters is both the actual work that we do or results we deliver and how our coworkers feel about us, whether they respect and trust us.

At the end of the day, politicking is about showing goodwill and caring about the other person’s agenda, in order to also be able to bring in your own ideas and advance them together. That compassionate approach is something we can all get behind. By reframing politicking, Chrisa makes the case that it’s both a necessary and enjoyable strategy for forming healthy alliances in the workplace.


Get access to an encore interview with Chrisa on The Power of One when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at

This article was based on episode 121 The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.


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