Mastering Office Politics in Bid and Proposal Management

Bid and proposal professionals often share a deep passion for their work, finding great satisfaction in developing solutions that support government and industry missions. This sense of accomplishment is amplified when their efforts directly contribute to creating or preserving jobs within their companies. Yet, alongside these rewarding aspects, there lies a common challenge—most professionals aren’t fond of office politics. The impact of office politics on morale can be profound, with overzealous criticism, power plays, budget reprioritization, and layoffs all contributing to a sometimes demoralizing, disturbing, and toxic atmosphere.

Delving into the Roots of Office Politics

Office politics often stem from tangible perceptions of unfairness related to recognition, compensation, or opportunities for career advancement. It may also come from a fear of change, as in the case of implementing new technologies, like generative artificial intelligence (GenAI), into capture and proposal processes. In environments lacking strong leadership to counteract these feelings, it’s not uncommon for individuals to prioritize their own goals over the team’s, fostering a climate ripe for political maneuvering.

Identifying the Players on the Field

In navigating office politics, it’s crucial to recognize the actors involved. Organizational expert Kathleen Kelley Reardon categorizes these individuals into four distinct behaviors:

  1. The Purist: Someone who steers clear of politics, focusing solely on their work.
  2. The Team Player: A professional who sees the value in politics for achieving team goals.
  3. The Streetfighter: An individual who aggressively seeks personal gain, often at the expense of others.
  4. The Maneuverer: A savvy operator who adeptly navigates political landscapes without making waves.

Crafting Your Playbook

Thriving in this politically charged environment is not just about executing tasks; it’s about taking control and developing intentional strategies. By doing so, bid and proposal professionals can feel more proactive and better prepared to navigate the challenges of office politics. These strategies, including those listed in Table 1, can serve as a playbook for success.

Table 1: 10 Strategies for Navigating Office Politics

No.TacticDescription
1Assess the political landscape  Take time to understand the power structures, alliances, and conflicts within your organization. Recognize the key players, including decision-makers, influencers, and politically savvy individuals.
2Define your objectivesBe clear about your professional goals and how they align with organizational objectives. Focus on what’s most important for your career advancement and what political battles are worth engaging in.
3Build strategic relationshipsCultivate relationships across the organization, not just vertically but also horizontally. Find mentors who can provide guidance and allies who can support you.
4Develop your political savvyListen to what is said and unsaid in meetings and conversations. Tailor your communication style to your audience, ensuring clarity and persuasiveness.  
5Foster a positive reputationEnsure your work is excellent and visible to those who matter. Maintain integrity and professionalism in all interactions, avoiding gossip and negativity.
6Manage conflicts wiselyNot every disagreement needs to be a conflict; assess which issues are worth the effort. Approach conflicts with a solution-oriented mindset, aiming for win-win outcomes.
7Stay adaptable and resilientBe prepared to adjust your strategies as the organizational dynamics shift. Learn from setbacks and remain committed to your goals, even when faced with challenges.
8Lead by example  Demonstrate ethical behavior and decision-making, setting a standard for others. Motivate and uplift your colleagues, contributing to a positive work environment.
9Keep learning and growingSeek constructive feedback to understand how you’re perceived and where you can improve. Develop your skills and knowledge to enhance your value and adaptability.
10Know when to step awayWinston Churchill reminded us of the wisdom in bouncing back from setbacks, and that perseverance is crucial for navigating these waters successfully. However, it’s also important to know when to step away or leave when an office environment no longer contributes to our professional well-being.

Conclusion

Office politics aren’t going anywhere, but how we choose to play the game can make all the difference. Dive in, play it smart, and remember, it’s about making those connections count, staying true to your values, and keeping that political savvy sharp. Let’s not just survive the office politics wave; let’s ride it like pros.

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By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals. As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $170B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and YouTube(TM) .

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Brenda Crist