You may have heard and felt the negative connotations surrounding the term “Office Politics”. It is often associated with backhanded and untrustworthy behaviours from our co-workers.
Knowing how to navigate and deal with office politics is a difficult task and requires you to be both mindful and tactful in your interaction with people in your workplace. The following points should help you when trying to deal with and work your way around office politics.
- Acceptance is the First Step
Whether you like it or not, office politics exist. It is even more important to remember that it will unavoidably play a role at some point in your career. This does not have to be a negative thing; once you have decided how you want to operate within the political arena at your workplace. It is better for you to try to find ways of dealing with the political dynamic in the organization rather than shy away from it or avoid it all together. There are many ways to engage in office politics without being a facilitator or becoming consumed in the negative aspects of it.
The most important role you can play when it comes to office politics is that of the observer. Take the time to observe the different groups, cliques and informal leaders in the organization. Look at the relationships between these groups, past history and dynamics. Look at the organizational chart and see how it differs from actuality in terms of control and influence. This will help you identify who are the key participants in office politics. When you have an idea of how things run in the organization with regards to politics you will be better able to figure out how to engage in it while still maintaining your integrity.
- Build Relationships to Your Benefit
It is better to befriend the influential individuals at your workplace rather than shy away from them. Avoiding these influential individuals can negatively impact you as they may resort to bullying or ignoring you in order to get their motives realized. You do not have to be friends with someone under false pretenses. Rather, try to find common ground and similarities between you and the influential individuals. This way you are not engaging in any negative behaviour but are ensuring that you are not forgotten when it comes to decision making and changes in the organization. In addition, you do not want to upset or build negative relationships with co-workers because of office politics. These things may eventually negatively impact you if he/she gets promoted and is now in a position to hold influence over your job.
- Avoid Negativity
Negative behaviours such as gossiping; mud slinging and smear campaigns can negatively affect you in the job environment. Your co-workers may be observing your behaviour and may become wary of you especially when there are matters of high importance and a great degree of confidentiality. Similarly, avoid being a sycophant. If you only maintain positive relationships for personal gain and then change your attitude shortly after, you run the risk of being negatively perceived. You want to appear to be the same person at all times; showing one personality to your bosses and another to your co-workers will eventually be revealed and can cause a lot of conflict and mistrust.
- Be Careful; Be Smart
When you are dealing with highly influential people in an office, you must take the time to think before you act. The things that you say or do can become caught up in political schemes before you even know what’s happening around you. Observe other’s reactions to certain behaviours in the office and try to ensure that you do not engage in similar activity. Learn from the best of these individuals and model your behaviour after their positive actions. When someone comes to you to gossip, you should listen in order to pick out important information, however, avoid repeating or contributing to the discussion. When it comes to your work, always document what you have done. This way your work can never be pulled into an argument or plot and no one can take credit for your work.
Bottom Line – There is no set way to navigate office politics. It is always in your best interest, however, to acknowledge that it exists and to know who are the responsible players. Maintaining amiable relationships with these individuals will help ensure that you do not become a victim or get negatively caught up in political plans. In addition, you will know what is happening in the organization without playing an active role. If you want your voice to be heard, then remaining neutral is your best bet. Pitching your ideas to the influencers should help you get the desired result without you becoming a player in the political race.
Check out the links below for more information on navigating office politics.