Ever felt like you were cheated out of a bid or a business deal at the office? Or perhaps been in situations that feel like a “gang up” from certain co-workers? Or do you sense manipulations coming from a particular set of people at the office? If yes, then there is a probability that what you are experiencing is first-hand office politics. Nepotism, gossips, manipulations, setups, greed, and their likes are all things that are certain to spur up office politics.
Workplace politics cannot be avoided as different people with different ideologies and personal career ethics are involved which may often lead to a clash of interest and poor human relationships. However, as an individual, you can avoid work politics by either staying away from it or tackling it head-on (corporately of course!). New employees may sometimes, find it difficult to navigate their way through such politics while some older/top employees may be better winning or avoiding workplace politics due to experience.
What is Workplace Politics?
Different scholars and institutions have differently defined what workplace politics is. Let’s consider three of these definitions that rightly captures the focus of this article.
Workplace politics is “the information and sometimes an emotion-driven process of allocating limited resources and working out goals, decisions and actions in an environment of people with different and competing interests and personalities.” (Michael and Deborah Dobson. Enlightened Office Politics: Understanding, Coping with, and Winning the Game—Without Losing Your Soul) It is can also be defined as “the activities, attitudes, or behaviors that are used to get or keep power or an advantage within a business or company.” (Merriam Webster dictionary) Workplace politics “is a tool to access the operational capacity and to balance diverse views of interested parties.” (Musa, Dr. Sam. Tip Sheet for Leaders on Politics)
The term ‘workplace politics’ may seem corrupt, but quite some people do not consider it as ‘all that bad’, and therefore tend to use it to their advantage.
Factors that influence workplace politics
Over-ambition Nepotism Gossip Jealousy Office cliques Arrogant supervisors
Ways to avoid workplace politics
#1 Maintain your standard: Don’t set unrealistic standards for yourself to get respect or seem really cool before your co-workers. One thing to note is the fact that setting high standards and not being able to maintain them would automatically draw gossip-worthy attention to you.
#2 Keep all co-workers at arms-length: By doing this, you would be able to observe everyone and take note of their attitudes. That way you would discern the characters of fellow employees from a distance. I.e. the over-ambitious co-workers that would do almost anything to get a new position or bonus, and the talkative who always have something to talk about.
#3 Keep your circle small: The workplace is not always a corporate jungle. It also holds certain benefits like networking or building a community. It is a place to build networks and possibly find life-time business partners. Networking may require that you connect with a few persons, however, it would be in your best interest to keep your network small by only connecting with beneficial people.
#4 Know when to withdraw: It is most likely that at least 2 out of 10 times you may find yourself caught up in office conversations. No doubt that some office conversations are enlightening and helpful, nonetheless, pay close attention to the flow of the conversations. Once there is a change in the flow, especially one that is heading towards gossip or conspiracy the best thing to do at that point is to withdraw from such conversation. It is simply not enough to refuse to contribute yet remain in such a conversation.
#5 Be productive: One of the easy ways to keep a clean slate and avoid office politics is by staying on top of your game. Be productive to remain relevant. Get to work on time, effectively carry out your duties, leave work on time, unless on some occasions.
#6 Always remind yourself of why you are there: Don’t get caught up in the euphoria of having a new job that you miss out on why you are really there.
#7 Try to avoid workplace love-relationships: It is corporately unethical to date a colleague. It is understandable that emotions can get in the way and one thing may lead to the other. Getting involved romantically with another colleague comes with its consequences which makes you prone to gossips and workplace politics.
#8 Be mindful of the kind of personal information you let out: You have the power to control what co-workers know about you. The little the personal information you let out the better for you.
#9 Try as much as possible to keep a clean record: If they can’t find any dirt on you they cannot have any hold on you.
#10 Don’t play the politics game: At first, workplace politics may seem like regular over ambitiousness until it begins to get out of hand at the expense of other employee's jobs. Workplace politics is not for the faint of heart. It is best not to get involved with it than to do so, and opt-out. Opting out of it would seem like a really great idea until the tables turn and the person involved becomes a victim too.
Avoiding workplace politics is a two-way thing. On one hand it is advisable to stay clear of possible situations or colleagues that cause friction or ruckus in workplaces. On the other hand, you really don’t want to pass off as a “wimp.” In this case, avoiding workplace politics could mean taking a firm stand against certain decisions or occurrences that are likely to cause friction.
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