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How to Find Work Allies: Office Politics and Office Policies

So how do you go about finding allies at work? Understanding the organization you’re working in is a crucial first step. As much as we’d all love to work where there were no office politics at all, the reality is that human interaction is complicated. Choosing to opt out and ignore anything that is not directly related to your work in the long run won’t benefit you.

When you know your organization’s internal culture, you have a clearer perspective on who can really instigate meaningful change. Just as there’s usually just one person who can ultimately sign off vacation time, there’s often only a few people who really are responsible for how employees are treated. Knowing the decision-makers lets you prioritize asking for allies help.

If you’re trying to negotiate a raise, you’re going to need managers as allies. If you’re dealing with direct harassment, you may need some help from the harasser’s peers. Improving how a company treats its employees (especially those who aren’t privileged in terms of gender, race, or other factors) can be a series of small improvements, requiring different types of help at each step. It’s worth noting that there are some organizations that are just too toxic to fix. Finding an ally may not always be possible, but being aware of office politics in a given environment can let you keep your head down long enough to develop an exit strategy. Even when quitting isn’t an option, transferring or otherwise getting out of that work environment may have to be a higher priority than finding someone willing to help you change it.

Once you have a clear idea of the key issues in your workplace, you’ll also be better equipped to pick your battles. Even with the best allies in the world, there are often more problems than you can afford to take on at any given time. In a workplace with a tendency towards sexist behavior, for example, you’ll have a tough time convincing every single person in the organization to completely reform their behavior. Dealing with just one issue, like an individual making inappropriate comments, will actually let you move forward faster.

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