Seeing office politics in the moment is not easy. Seeing the final disastrous result of office politics is easy. You can train yourself to see invisible office politics before they kill you. Let me give you an example of being trained to see what is already there.
I took my Boy Scouts out into the woods. We went to look for animal signs. The boys couldn’t see a thing. Nothing. Then one spotted a bird. They all saw it. Another heard a woodpecker. Suddenly they could all hear it and they also noticed the trees with woodpecker holes in them. I pointed out a rabbit run. The leaves were broken up into smaller pieces than the surrounding leaves and there was also a tunnel under some bushes. They started seeing rabbit runs. We walked down the road and I saw some deer tracks. They looked and found the path that the deer were using. It was just like a rabbit run, only bigger. As their eyes were trained, they saw more and more. Once they concentrated on looking for things out of the ordinary, they got good at spotting animal signs.
Training yourself to see office politics is difficult. Often you see the person who gets what they want, and not the people who enable it. Look at the interactions where you are. Who really makes the important decisions?
Choosing a guide is a great idea. Don’t choose the loudest person. Choose the most effective person. Who seems to get what they want? Invite them to lunch or just find a moment to be alone with them. Ask how they do it. Sincere interest is a form of flattery that is almost impossible to resist. You will quickly find out what you need.
Keep in mind! As you are finding out who the gatekeepers and roadblocks are, learn to keep your mouth shut. Getting experts to trust you with their secrets depends on your keeping their confidence safe. Ask questions. Don’t spill the dirt. Funny thing about gossip, effective people shun it. They like helping people understand how a department really works, but they shut down and hurt gossip.
You can have a training program you don’t have to pay for. If you are worthy of their trust, the people who know will train you. They will want you for an ally.
Something to do today
Take a few days and become an observer. Ask questions. Find out the lay of the land. Who are the people who benefit from the power brokers? Who really are the power brokers?