decor image

GHC14: Winning the Game of Office Politics- Jo Miller


Track: Leadership Workshop
For: Early-Mid Career Industry
Location: North 120 B-C
Facilitator: Jo Miller
Winning at the Game of Office Politics In every workplace there 
are smart, talented women going about their work, hoping to 
attract recognition. While they wait, their colleagues are getting 
ahead by politicking and schmoozing. Is it possible to navigate 
office politics without becoming a political animal? Topics in 
include: Developing positive political savvy, How to understand 
the dynamics of power in your organization, the shadow 
organization map and Identifying the unwritten, unspoken ‘rules 
of the game’.

Credit: Jo Miller, Womens Leadership Coaching

Credit: Jo Miller, Womens Leadership Coaching

As a recent grad, I take all the advice I can get to grow both as an individual and as a professional. I follow influential men and women on social media and incorporate their advice into my day to day life. Someone told me once the reason they are a master is because they have failed more times than the number of times that I’ve tried. (This may have come from a fortune cookie, I don’t remember). Either way, there is some truth to that. When someone offers advice, it’s important to take note of it.  


Jo Miller is someone who I’ve been following for some time and I jumped at the chance to sit in and blog when it was announced that she would be speaking at Grace Hopper. 


The talk was entitled Winning the Game of Office Politics. Let’s be honest- it is something that is encountered in any sort of organization. There is no immunity to office politics as it can easily creep into a persons’ daily life. It’s like when I go into the kitchen to eat one pringle. Then another, then another. Knowing that, I went to the session hoping to learn how to navigate through it.  


Jo started her session off by saying “Don’t wait for permission or an invite to lead…”, and introduced some statistics notably 80% of professional women ignore it, or reluctantly play the game where necessary. Unfortunately “avoiding (office) politics..can be deadly for your career.” I wasn’t surprised but I didn’t necessarily want to begin my career by ignoring them entirely or changing the type of person I am to deal with it. Jo addressed it and brought up a better idea. It was being Positive Political Savvy. 

4 key elements she noted where 

  • Social Astuteness
  • Sincerity 
  • Interpersonal influence 
  • Networking Ability 

My mind went into shambles. I had what Jo called later an ‘epiphanet’. It didn’t change the fact that I am terrified of dealing with office politics. It’s time to change our mindset about office politics and the best way to do it was change the wording. Ladies and gentlemen, office politics has now become Organizational Awareness. We did a short exercise in which we drew and made connections that were not only meaningful but important. I loved this exercise. It made us seriously consider the connections we see on the day to day basis and forced us to ask ourselves why these connections exist. Jo reiterated not to be so quick to label things. Things like ‘the boys club’. She noted, there must be some underlying reason why they are close. Learn what it is and educate yourself on that subject. I began to worry that perhaps this was easier said than done. I began to worry, I’d need to learn how to play fantasy football and be in the jazz band. The talk also highlighted sponsorships. Jo explained the importance of having a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who not only has the social capital to help you move through but someone who would be on your side and would argue your case behind closed doors.

The session ended with Jo summarizing some key elements. All of which are important to Winning the Game of Office Politics.

If you are in an entry level position: 

  • Find the navigator and befriend them. 
  • Navigate well at all levels
  • Build an influential coalition and this means closing gaps
  • Don’t be a lone influencer 

If you are at a Mid-Senior Level 

  • Be the game changer

Jo is an amazing speaker and her talk is applicable to everyone who deals with any sort of organization. In a short amount of time, I was able to understand that no I can’t just hide in the dark and pretend that office politics won’t affect me, nor should I change who I am to play ‘the game’. What I can do is become a politically savvy person, recognize and understand the relationships in my organization, build a network, attain a sponsor and begin building meaningful relationships with those around me. That’s how you play what people refer to as ‘the game’. 

Missed the session and want to see more? Check it out here