Consult Carson 7/19: “How do I navigate office politics?”

From today’s mailbag: “My department is strife with politics.  I’m not a butt-kisser, and I’m tired of seeing them get praised and ahead.  It just seems like if I don’t, I’m never going to go anywhere.  Any suggestions?”

Carson: Try as you might, you will likely never escape a scenario where you are affected by politics.  Even the adage of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” governs such a large landscape in our working world.  This is why we must learn how to balance our business relationships with biting our tongue and being very selective about burning our bridges.  Sometimes, it’s nearly impossible to emerge unscathed.

(1) Observe.  Figure out who the people are that can help and hurt your career.  You do need to at least know who you don’t want to have as an enemy!  Sometimes, you may be recruited for causes you really don’t agree with or you can see groups of people who all ascend together in companies that have no business even being there – all because they look out for one another, stick together and promote each other.  In business, trust – even honor among thieves – goes a long way.  Be very careful about anything you ever do or say that can be construed as a statement against someone who carries a lot of influence.  Figure out what these people want that falls within your ethical guidelines and deliver as best you can.

(2) Stay clean.  Just as staying on the good side of those who carry influence – both good and bad – is paramount, you never want to give anyone ammunition they can use against you.  Standing with a group of dissenters, speaking out either privately or publicly about things you disagree with and even standing up to superiors can severely damage your future chances.

(3) Pick your battles.  I’m all for having strong principles and having lines you refuse to cross.  That said, if you fight every time there’s injustice or you make a large issue or grandstand about even the largest of issues, you run risk of damaging your career.  Remember that perception is reality: if those who are influencers can paint you as a problem, that reputation can follow you for the rest of your days.  People know people, in other departments and other companies, and a reputation like that can seriously hamper your prospects.  When directly asked by a superior how you feel about something, you can tactfully state your case.  However, remember that you are paid by the company to carry out their orders.  If you disagree with those orders you either have to grin and bear it, or risk your bills and family and livelihood to put it all on the line and stand up for your beliefs.  That’s not an easy choice sometimes.

(4) If you have to drastically change who you are, lie or do anything remotely dishonest to get something you want, it’s not worth having.  There will always be a variety of reasons we don’t necessarily get ahead or get picked for the project or get the promotion we think we want in the moment.  Politics can very well factor in.  And, of course, there are the folks who are just “yes” men and women, those who always spout the company mantra and drink the Kool-Aid regardless of what is best for the people.  You cannot control anyone but yourself.  It’s one thing to follow your marching orders, keep your head down and live an honest life and it’s quite another to sell your soul for the almighty dollar.

(5) Have faith in the system.  In the moment when you are passed over in favor for the butt-kisser, it is certainly difficult to see your choices and honesty and ethics paying off.  But regimes change.  Managers come and go and there are good ones out there who may eventually be the influencers you are trying to impress.  There are many office and department and company dynamics that are less than ideal – sometimes even for long periods of time!  But you cannot lose heart.  These types of situations happen everywhere, so the last thing you want to do is something drastic in the moment that will have far-reaching, dramatic negative repercussions.

No matter what, I’m still a firm believer that if you apply consistent, effective process, continue to adapt in the face of your customers’ and employees’ needs, and always abide by the holy sales trinity on every transaction and with every decision – customer, company and you (never sacrifice any of them in your process!) that – in the long run, over the long haul, everything will turn out as it should be.  Politics is a part of life and business, but just as it can hamper you in certain situations or make you lose heart, it can benefit you if you do the right things, align with the proper people and build and nurture relationships with the influencers who stand for what you do.


Carson V. Heady posts for “Consult Carson” serving as the “Dear Abby” of sales and sales leadership.  You may post any question that puzzles you regarding sales and sales leadership careers: interviewing, the sales process, advancing and achieving.  You will also be directly contributing to his third book, “A Salesman Forever.”

Question submissions can be made via LinkedIn to Carson V. Heady, this Facebook page: , Twitter via @cvheady007 or e-mail at or you may post an anonymous comment as a reply to my WordPress blog at the bottom of this page:

Carson V. Heady has written a book entitled “Birth of a Salesman” that has a unique spin that shows you proven sales principles designed to birth in you the top producer you were born to be.

If you would like to strengthen your sales skills, go to

About cvheady007

I am a Christian, Husband, Dad, workaholic and author. Biography Carson Vincent Heady was born in Cape Girardeau, MO, graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and moved to St. Louis in 2001. He has served in sales and leadership across Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Carson is best-selling author of the Birth of a Salesman series, the first book of which was published by World Audience Inc. in 2010. He released The Salesman Against the World in 2014, A Salesman Forever in 2016 and Salesman on Fire in 2020. He is also featured in Scott Ingram’s B2B Sales Mentors: 20 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals. Carson is a 7-time CEO/President’s Club winner across 5 roles at AT&T and Microsoft and National Verizon Rockstar winner. He has been recognized as a top social seller at Microsoft and is consistently ranked in the top 25 sales gurus in the world on Rise Global. He is included among the Top 50 sales authors on LinkedIn. With over 330K social followers, Carson has also been interviewed on over 30 sales and leadership podcasts, by such luminaries as Jeffrey & Jennifer Gitomer, Jeb Blount, Brandon Bornancin, Sam Dunning, Larry Levine, Darrell Amy, Scott Ingram, Thierry van Herwijnen, Jim Brown, Sam Jacobs, Luigi Prestinenzi, Donald Kelly, Marylou Tyler, George Leith, Pat Helmer, Eric Nelson, Ron Tunick, Jeff Arthur, Mary Ann Samedi, Jean Oursler, Andre Harrell, Marlene Chism, Bill Crespo, Matt Tanguay, Josh Wheeler and Chad Bostick. He has also co-hosted the Smart Biz Show on EG Marketing Radio. His articles have appeared in several noteworthy publications such as SalesGravy, Smash! Sales, Salesopedia and the Baylor Sports Department S3 Report. Carson lives in St. Louis, MO, with his wife Amy and daughters Madison, Sidonia and Charlotte.
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