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by Kathleen Kelley Reardon, Ph.D.

Currency/Doubleday © 2005, 248 pages, $24.95 (ISBN 0-385-50757-7).

Winning in a World Where Hard Work and Talent Aren’t Enough

Political skills can determine career success. To show aspiring businesspeople how to reach higher levels within their organizations and master the highly complex skill set required to get ahead in business, management professor Kathleen Kelley Reardon offers a complete tutorial on the benefits of becoming political and more effective in It’s All Politics. To help readers get in the loop, get their ideas heard, and manage outcomes before they are in sight, Reardon presents many insights about office politics and how they can make or break a career.

One of the lessons Reardon teaches in It’s All Politics is how to develop an early warning system for detecting when something in the environment just isn’t right. Her advice includes numerous tips on listening to gut instincts and ways to avoid pushing valuable impressions aside.

Chimps and Coalitions

While citing a study of chimpanzees and the work of primatologist Franz de Waal, Reardon explores how human deception can be detected by pointing out how the chimps de Waal studied never make uncalculated moves. She explains that by constantly keeping track of each other and always thinking about the next social step, chimpanzees “form coalitions and work together to assess their surroundings and deal with potential enemies.”

Reardon shows readers how they can improve their political skills by listening to that nagging feeling that something is not quite right and making sense of various inputs. Offering brief scripts that describe dysfunctional communication patterns, she breaks down unproductive interactions to describe how communication could have been improved and where language could have been inserted into the conversation to make a point stronger.

Throughout It’s All Politics, Reardon provides a number of highlighted boxes that present specific words of advice that sum up the lesson discussed in a section. “Political Advantage #1,” for example, is, “Political intuition is not uncanny clairvoyance but rather uncanny attentiveness to what others say and how they act.” She explains that by developing a political early warning system and keeping political antennae on high alert, people can see political disasters approaching a mile away. Through lessons such as these, Reardon aims to make readers more politically skilled and able to advance their career goals.

Being secure in a job requires being able to manage how you and your ideas are treated by others. The politically astute, Reardon writes, “stay in touch with what is going on around them and communicate with others in ways that align their goals with those in power or soon to be in power.” By having an uncanny sense of their surroundings, effective politicians notice every miniscule nonverbal move, change in the direction of talk, and momentary emotional expression. By truly seeing peripheral actions and using that information to determine a response, the savvy politician can see problems that lie ahead and develop early warning systems that tell him or her when and where to use the valuable impressions he or she receives.

The Skilled Politician

The skilled politician is also aware of the situations that are the most important concerns, and has many responses in store to handle them correctly. By taking in what others overlook or discard, Reardon explains, those who know how to play the political game know the right questions to ask and the best ways to avoid falling into predictable routines.

“The process by which people are promoted, demoted, edged out, and selected for prize project teams and plum assignments is usually repetitive,” Reardon writes. To help readers become more intuitive by mastering organizational pattern recognition, she offers them the questions they should ask themselves about their work environments. Are there others who can help me get promoted? When and how should I advance the idea of my promotion? Whose toes should I avoid stepping on? By asking these questions, one can gain the wisdom of experience required to move up.

Reardon also explains the differences between positive politics and harmful political actions: virtues. She writes that many companies have found ways to reward positive politics by helping people find their own political compasses while improving the bottom line. ~

Why We Like ThIs Book

By inserting advice on virtues and ethics into the discussion of workplace politics, Reardon not only shows people how to get ahead by using the practiced skills of master politicians, but she also demonstrates the proper use of those skills to maintain high professional standards. Her clear descriptions of the issues and answers surrounding politics make her insights understandable and actionable. ~

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