Office politics is an unavoidable part of life, and people who recognize this, are keen observers and build alliances are better positioned to succeed without having to play dirty, writes James daSilva. When you build relationships, you’ll benefit from opportunities and Bonnie Marcus calls “a radar system to understand potential roadblocks and danger.”



We’ll soon know who will be president in 2021, whether tonight or another day, and we’ll have to move on with our life’s work. Elections are brutally zero-sum affairs: Someone wins, and the other candidates lose.

Electoral outcomes literally change countries and societies, so it’s understandable that we obsess over them. One downside to this, as I’ve written about here before, is that people start to think everything is a zero-sum game, which is not how life works.

Yes, many moments in life and business are win-lose situations. But the totality of our careers and personal lives are rarely zero-sum outcomes. Yes, a company might succeed or fail because it defeats a competitor, but few industries have but one player. Yes, only one person can be the CEO (with some exceptions), but there are many titles and roles for workers, just as there are many career paths available. Yes, you might suffer a failed relationship, but friendship isn’t a zero-sum game and soulmate is not a literal, genetic designation.

Even sports teams, which exist to compete in winner-take-all championships, gain a great deal from performing well even when they don’t win the title. As I wrote last year about the World Series, the Ricky Bobby philosophy of “If you ain’t first, you’re last” is short-sighted and deflating. This lesson should apply to our businesses, our teams, our careers and our personal lives.