McGill Management Insights: Navigating Office Politics with Sara Knapp (BCom’89)

Sara Knapp (BCom’89)Starting that first new job right out of university can be intimidating enough as it is, but throw office politics into the mix and it can become even more difficult to adjust.

Sara Knapp (BCom’89) is an executive coach and the founder of Bay Street Coaching and has dedicated her career as a coach to helping to accelerate the career success of others.

She joins undergraduate student Sophie Ou in this episode of McGill Management Insights, sharing her expertise on how young professionals can navigate office politics and make them work for their benefit.

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While you might be tempted to try not to engage, managing relationships, influencing others and using psychology to get things done is inevitable in a corporate environment. And depending on how you approach them, they have the power to either accelerate your career or hold you back, Knapp explains.

Everybody has trouble with office politics,” Knapp says. “You can have a black belt in office politics but work in an organization where you need a triple black belt.”

For early-career professionals just breaking into a corporate environment, two main challenges come to mind, says Knapp. One of those challenges is managing up, and the other is about getting heard in meetings—or influencing up.

“In school, we're taught the best idea usually prevails,” she says. “When you get into the workforce, it should happen that way. But it's not a meritocracy all the time, so I will hear stories about people in meetings, and they'll say, ‘I came in all prepared.’ I had all the data, and I made the suggestions, and people just looked right through me like I wasn't even there. And then, you know, four minutes later, Bob says the same thing and everybody's like, oh, Bob, that's the greatest idea ever.”

“Those are the two things that I kind of hear most often that I put into the bucket of office politics because what's going on is not logical, right,” she adds.

Tune into this episode of McGill Management Insights for more tips on how to make office politics work for you, including what can help you get ahead and what can hold you back.

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This episode was hosted by

Sophie Ou

Sophie Ou
BCom, 26

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