Use Sparingly, Use Strategically -- Tactic #20

The final power player tactic involves the effective selection and usage of the other tactics already discussed.  If you're a power player, the way you do this will differ, depending on whether you're a street fighter or a maneuverer.

You see, most of your coworkers -- perhaps even the world at large -- see the power player tactics as...well...obnoxious.  If you're a maneuverer, you want to avoid the label of obnoxious.  Obnoxious will taint your image.  Obnoxious will drive allies away.  Obnoxious will add to your list of enemies and provide them with a rallying point.  If you're a maneuverer, you want to prevent those things from happening, and there is no other way to do so than to use the tactics sparingly.  On the other hand, if you're of the relatively rare street fighter persuasion, you probably don't care about being labeled obnoxious, and will have a freer hand in using the power player tactics.  In fact, people will probably expect you to be politically maeuvering more or less all the time (which has its own challenges).

So how do you decide when it is best to do nothing, when it is best to limit yourself to the relatively benign tactics of the neutrals, and when its appropriate to go all out?  I'll suggest there are four factors you must consider.

  1. Is situation one where high rewards are possible?  We're talking promotion, job-preservation, or enemy elimination here, rather than image enhancing, alliance building, or revenge delivering.
  2. Are the consequences of failing small?  Every one of these tactics has the potential to backfire.  Every application could bend back on you if you make a mistake or encounter opposition also skilled in the use of power play tactics.  Are you betting a friendship with a subordinate two levels below you, or are you betting your career?
  3. Is the likelihood of success high or very high?  Taking multiple high risk gambles is a mistake -- eventually one will fall apart.  I recommend you look for what seems like sure things in the beginning -- as the situation unfolds and you discover adverse circumstances, at least you still have a good chance of winning.  That's risky enough.
  4. Is the political capital cost low?  Every political project you undertake stresses your alliances and friendships.  Metaphorically, you are making a withdrawl from your political capital account, and you don't want to later find yourself in need with a low balance.  Save political capital for only the best opportunities.
If you can say yes to three of the four questions above, then a manueverer is well positioned to engage in the power player tactics.  If you can only say yes to one or two, my advice is to stick with neutral tactics.  If you don't have any yeses, the what the heck are you wasting your time for??