Though it is not something that people will always be willing to admit, organizational politics play a large role in how most businesses function and are run. People are political animals, and it is hard to prevent politics from entering the office place. This is not entirely a negative, as it is possible to use the political motives of workers and others in an organization to accomplish broader goals and to increase an organization's efficiency.
Any organization, after it has existed for a significant amount of time, will begin to develop its own culture. This will determine in part the reactions that people have to certain behavior and will dictate ways to advance within an organization. The best political operators in business are able to read the organizational culture of a company and to find ways to communicate within this culture in order to make their messages most effective.
Some of the best managers also are the most skilled political operators. Learning how to manage your employees means learning how to communicate with them in a way that reaches them personally. The best managers are able to identify what motivates their employees and use these motivations to bring out their best performances. Different employees will think differently. Some will be more analytical and appreciate problem solving. Others will want more emotional motivation for tasks.
Skillful political behavior means establishing a wide network of contacts within an organization. These will be people that you can count on to provide you with information and to ally themselves with you when your decision needs to be backed. This kind of politics is about establishing personal connections and in establishing bonds of real trust. Ethical behavior is likely to take you the farthest when it comes to this form of organizational politics.
When trying to decide which job to take, it might be wise to examine the politics of the companies you are considering. Different organizational cultures will match different people better. It could be that you would do well in a more structured environment, where what was expected was more clear and where change was discouraged. It could be, on the other hand, that you would do well in a looser culture where experimentation is encouraged.