The Corporate Game: How To Play It

Many businesses are defined by their company culture, which in reality often portrays the internal political game that lies with the company. Even though the corporate game or office politics is often expressed as negative, over the years, I have learned that choosing not to play the game (or being ignorant to its existence) can actually hurt more than playing the game.

Whether you’re a team player or not, once you hit the corporate workplace, playing the corporate game will often become one of the only survival mechanisms.

Many workers and even leaders play the corporate game with the goal to form alliances, manipulate and take credit. So yes, you might not like to play politics, but can you imagine what happens if you decide not to? Especially, while everyone else is? – Just like any other game, playing the corporate game is all really about how you play it.

Here’s how to play the game:

Getting the work done

Many career girls, especially corporate newbies go to work thinking that if they just get their work done and work within their ‘job description’ they will be fine. Wrong! (Unless… you’re not really into your job in the first place) Successfully playing the corporate game is not just about getting your work done. It’s about teaching yourself how to anticipate situations and learning how to always think beyond your job description. This doesn’t mean overworking yourself and staying in the office till 7 pm. However, be passionate about:

–          having solutions to problems that do not even exist yet

–          finding different ways to do your job more efficiently

Which leads to the second point….

Working smarter

Stop working harder, and start working smarter. Take the time to look for different tools and systems that will help you do your job more efficiently. Something that might normally take you two hours to finish, might end up taking just 30 minutes if you have the right tools – However, a new tool or system might not always be feasible or part of your department’s budget. So, if that’s the case, try looking into, for example, updating/revamping your existing tools or worksheets such as Excel, your Google or Outlook calendar, and other free (planning) tools.


If you have noticed that you are always running out of time, start setting personal work deadlines, before the actual project deadline. This way you always create a timeslot, leaving enough space to tackle last minute (unwanted) work surprises without having to work harder, and without stress.

It’s a ‘NO’

In the corporate work environment, you will definitely meet corporate individuals, who love to take advantage of people with a ‘yes’ mentality. Of course, it is flattering to have someone maybe more experienced or in a higher position ask you for help. However, in reality, (or sometimes) it’s part of the corporate game. In the corporate workplace, you can really not afford to worry about whether you are liked or not.

Wanting to be liked might lead you to become a straight-up ‘yes’ person. And that’s how many people end up being used to work and think for other people’s successes, without even receiving the credit for it.

YES, it is important to maintain a good relationship with your colleagues, and if you can help someone with a difficult task, go for it! However, if helping your colleagues means that you have to drop your work and ignore your own responsibilities, respectfully let them know that you might be of better help another time – in other words, it’s a ‘NO’.

Sneaky snakes

The corporate workplace is full of it… individuals who feel highly threatened by your rightfully earned rise or success. Often times, their main goal then becomes to successfully drag you down. As you can’t always avoid any interactions with corporate snakes, beware of them and don’t allow them to drag you into their mentality – Don’t fight sneaky, always fight fair.

Control the only element you can – yourself

One of the key elements to gaining success not only in life but also in the corporate workplace is to gain control over your emotions. You cannot control what happens in your organisation, neither can you control people’s actions and attitudes, the only thing you do have full control over is your own behaviour. And that’s the most valuable and powerful asset you have. Keeping your integrity and not allowing the corporate game to change you and your values, especially when dealing with corporate snakes, making sure you yourself do not become one.

Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson is a marketing professional and the Founder and Editor of Corporate Career Girl. Her true passion is to empower career girls in the workplace and help them bridge the gap between university and the corporate environment.

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