Office politics are present in most workplaces. Every party has a pooper and every office has a brown-noser. Such is life.
Yet — as annoying and superficial as butt-kissing may seem — there may be a thing or two to be learned from the office politico. For instance, it never hurts to get to know the people in your office who can help you advance your career. And we’re not talking about the CEO. There are a lot of people at work — outside the small group of people you interact with on a daily basis — who can make your job a lot easier if you’re on their good side.
Now, just so we’re clear, we don’t mean that you should spend your day throwing around empty compliments and hobnobbing your way around the office. We just mean that it’s important to develop relationships with people at work outside of those in your department. You may be surprised by how much smoother your day goes once you start making the effort to remember the name of the receptionist, or striking up conversations with colleagues you don’t know in the elevator.
Specifically, you might want to try cozying up to these five colleagues:
1. The guy who has been there the longest
You know the one. He’s like the unofficial mayor of your company. He remembers when the CEO was an intern. Whether he takes out the trash or is the vice president of human resources, chances are he knows the company inside and out; making him the go-to guy for information about whether your proposed re-branding will violate the company’s core values, how long it takes to get a raise, and whether the company is more likely to promote from within or fill open spots with outsiders.
2. The receptionist
The receptionist is the company gatekeeper. She knows who habitually strolls in late, who burns the midnight oil and who has the most client appointments coming in. Need someone to cover for you when you sneak out of the office for a coffee break? She’s your girl.
Additionally, receptionists often have job responsibilities like ordering catering services for business lunches and managing conference room schedules. Just scheduled a last-minute meeting? The receptionist will be more likely to rearrange conference room schedules or tell you whose office you can borrow in a pinch if you’re on her good side.
3. The mail room guy
Don’t ignore the mail room guy. He’s another person who holds the key to making your day run smoother. For example: When you order 10 boxes of new sales brochures, having an in with the mail clerk may mean who he’ll deliver those boxes up to your desk, instead of making you walk back and forth between the mail room and your desk 10 times to bring them up there yourself.
Besides being the office postmaster, the mail room guy often manages the ordering and distribution of office supplies. So if your computer monitor is from 1998 or you’re using an abacus instead of a calculator, he’s probably the guy who can get you an upgrade.
4. Your boss’s boss
While it’s great to establish a connection with your boss, it’s even better to have one with her boss.
Why? Networking with the higher-ups is a great way to learn about your potential career path and gain valuable insight and guidance. In ten years, you could have the job that your grand-boss (get it? Your boss’s boss?) has. Learning more about it can help you develop the skills you need to one day reach that role — or it may make you re-evaluate your long-term career goals. Look at your boss’s boss as a mentor of sorts — someone to pay attention to and learn from.
5. The intern
As someone who had multiple internships in college, trust me on this one. I once had an internship where I reported to nine different people, and they all happily passed along their grunt work. If there was no clear priority as to whose work had to be done first, I chose by who I liked the most. I’d go out of my way to help the sales rep who took all the interns to lunch on their birthdays, while I’d push requests from the event coordinator with a short temper to the bottom of the pile. Treat the interns well, and you may see a vast improvement in the quality and timeliness of the work they produce.