Five things you need to know about politics in IT

No one is immune to corporate politics. Learning how to deal with the politics of IT is the key to advancing your career and keeping your job.

Corporate politics affect IT professionals as much as any other job holders in a company. And no IT shop is free of -- or immune to -- the effects of political nonsense.

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Encounters with a self-centered boss with his own agenda, a sales manager that lives to drive you nuts or a board of directors happy to invoke policies that create more problems than they solve are nothing out of the ordinary. I've been in the middle of all sorts of political battles, and I hear lots of great stories from my colleagues, so you're in good company.

I've found that the more you understand politics -- its drivers and causes – the better prepared you'll be to handle whatever's flung your way. Here are six facts you need to know about corporate politics:

  1. All people are self-centered. In practically every personal and professional situation, people want to know "what's in it for me?" Approach your interactions with people from this perspective. See what you can do – within reason – to make them feel better about themselves and you'll get along better with everyone.

  2. You cannot (and shouldn't attempt to) please everyone. Being a person who gets results is a good thing, but being a people-pleaser is one of the best ways to become a doormat. Being at everyone's beck and call may seem to have payoffs in the short term, but eventually people will grow to disrespect and resent you for it.

  3. You cannot communicate effectively with every single person in the same way. Find out how each person you deal with regularly likes to be approached, how he or she communicates, what motivates the person, and then tweak your interactions accordingly. As long as you're not faking it or patronizing, this can be a great way to get others on your side.

  4. People are averse to change. Doing things the way we've always done them, by golly, is the way things are going to remain. This is especially true for management and people who haven't a clue about IT and information security.

  5. Present new ideas casually in passing. Experts have found that people need about 72 hours to mull over things you're trying to sell. Never push your ideas on management, your peers or your subordinates in the name of IT or security. Instead, if you talk about problems and solutions in terms of the business – and do so indifferently without pressuring others – you'll win people over more often.

You don't have to master the human brain, but learning to understand behavior and relationships will be one of the most beneficial things you can do for your career in IT and will take the edge off of corporate politics.

Kevin Beaver, is an information security consultant, keynote speaker and expert witness with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. Kevin specializes in performing independent security assessments. Kevin has authored/co-authored seven books on information security, including Hacking For Dummies and Hacking Wireless Networks For Dummies (Wiley). He's also the creator of the Security on Wheels information security audio books and blog providing security learning for IT professionals on the go. Kevin can be reached at  kbeaver@principlelogic.com.

This was first published in October 2009

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