Navigating Organisational Politics

2023 is a year full of huge organisational wins if you’re able to effectively navigate and positively influence the minefield of politics found in almost every business today.

I once interviewed the co-founder and chair of a listed company, who proudly told me that politics do not exist in his organisation. Now imagine his shock when I told him I’d been approached by several members of his top team for coaching on handling the destructive politics in his company.

The existence of politics in organisations is a reality that can be a force for good or bad. In layman’s terms, “politics” refers to the field of influencing others to gain power by way of decisions and behaviours. Power can be related to personal drivers such as money, status, ethics, or the desire for control. Sometimes you’re the party influenced by the decisions of others; sometimes you’re the person who wants to influence others.

Recognising organisational politics

Through my years of executive coaching, I’ve been privy to first-hand accounts of the many faces that organisational politics presents. And although the leaders I work with describe different scenarios, there’s an underlying theme of power and influence that seems to come up time and again.

In their words, these are some of the real-life situations my clients have approached me with:

  • “I sometimes arrive at top-level meetings where untested, unfounded, and damaging claims are made against me and my department.”
  • “I get invited to tender meetings, but upon arrival I realise decisions have already been made and I’ve been invited merely for the sake of having my name listed as present on the minutes.”
  • “My line manager’s been given a new position and wants me to join him in his new department. I’m not sure if this is a good idea.”
  • “My peers are getting promoted, but I seem to be overlooked every time. I don’t understand this.”
  • “A senior executive wants me to make a payment, which makes me feel uncomfortable because it’s a grey area, and he doesn’t want to put the instructions to me in writing.”
  • “I haven’t been invited to some top-level meetings. There appears to be an ‘inner circle’ of which I’m not a part.”
  • “There’s something brewing in the organisation. It could be a restructure, a merger, or a palace revolution, but I have no idea what’s going on.”
  • “I sometimes feel that my personal values and the values of the organisation are in total conflict.”
  • “I’m an outsider who has been appointed to a senior position. Some people have welcomed me, but others seem to be sabotaging me.”
  • “When I look at the company’s organogram, the hierarchical lines of power are clear; however, there seems to be an informal structure that overrides the formal one.”
  • “I’ve been asked to present my project to the board. However, I’m aware that there are different factions on the board. How do I prepare for this?”

Do you recognise any of these challenges? And how would you approach a solution?

The most effective strategies for dealing with organisational politics are sometimes the least obvious ones, and action without the right consideration may result in unwanted consequences.

Coaching as a tool to master organisational politics

Having a seasoned executive coach as an ally to provide a sounding board for your pain points will help you lead more effectively, support your ability to navigate the dynamics of workplace influence and will give you a strategic thinking advantage.

As a leading provider with 25 years of experience coaching leaders in blue-chip companies and government, Change Partners is perfectly positioned to help you advance.

Gerrie De Villiers is an international executive coach and partner at Change Partners Coaching. He’s a seasoned executive coach who has climbed the career ladder to become a senior executive, board member, MD, President, and Chair in several organisations, and he’s deeply passionate about empowering others to become successful, high-performing leaders.

Contact him at or on 083 250 9785 to make 2023 your biggest year of growth and success!

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