Office politics – for many it is a taboo word. In a nutshell it’s basically the strategies people use in order to gain an advantage over their colleagues. That makes it sound a bit sordid; but as humans we all seek to gain advantages and we don’t all naturally get along with each other – enter the office politics…
Ask someone about their views on office politics and nine times out of ten they will say that they actively avoid it. However, those same people probably practice it daily. Who hasn’t tried to make themselves look good in front of their superior and inadvertently made a colleague look less capable in the process? Who hasn’t taken a side in a work-place disagreement? Who hasn’t put their career progression and personal interests in front of their colleagues?
If you play your part well and make a conscious effort not to offend anyone, get involved with office arguments and ensure you are genuine with your co-workers; then you have already made a strong play for that promotion!
Regardless of whether you knowingly partake or avoid it, office politics is a fact of life and is therefore inescapable. This is the reason I decided to put together a guide to help you to correctly govern your own behaviour
1) Sit Back & Observe – Through considered observation you’ll notice what works within your organisations culture, and more importantly what doesn’t. You can watch other people work in order to identify both successful and unsuccessful practices; so you can adapt your personal approach. You should also observe acceptable practices relating to the social side of the business too, so you can fit into every aspect in line with the companies’ ethos and best practises.
2) Avoid Getting Personal – At work you will get angry with people, especially if you have it in your head they are trying to gain an advantage over you for their own success.
This is normally where the fantasies start playing out in your head where you bash your co-worker over the head with a chair, or you say all the things you’ve been bottling up for moths. It’s essential that they remain as fantasies and you never act on these things!
You’re never going to advance in your own career if you are seen as someone who is confrontational and hard to get along with. It is of the utmost importance to remember that people in offices talk – one outburst and EVERYONE will know about it! Don’t give your boss an excuse not to champion you for that promotion.
3) Don’t Pick Sides – When involved in office politics you are likely to find yourself stuck in the middle of an argument. People may try to draw you in with lines like “You were there tell him that I emailed it to him on time please.” When faced with a similar situation it’s essential you proceed with caution and make it perfectly clear you are not picking sides. When it’s over something unimportant then you should stand down. When the argument is over a serious business matter, then always answer honestly and put all biases aside.
By not taking sides, you’ll help to diffuse the situation – plus you can distance yourself, which will prevent any repercussions coming back to haunt you. You can try and steer things to ensure the discussion is focused on business objectives for its entirety, but don’t take it any further.
4) Avoid Gossiping– you may think that everything you say is confidential but this is rarely the case. How do you know that you’re complaint won’t be passed on to someone else, or even worse overheard by a superior? It’s good practice to avoid discussing your negative opinions about another co-worker. If you find yourself compelled to voice an opinion/ objection, then you must ensure you take an organisational perspective; not a personal one.
5) Ensure Everyone Wins – To quote the immortal words of Hot Chocolate “Everyone’s a winner.’
This line should always be in the back of your mind if you find yourself engaged in a work-related conflict. You should not be looking for weaknesses in their arguments and points you can capitalise on! This is not a playground, it’s your profession! Instead, you should look for solutions where you meet in the middle and as such both parties walk away happy. You normally spend more time with your work colleagues than anyone else – so being civil with them is essential for everyone’s wellbeing.
In order to ensure that everyone wins you have to strive to understand the other person’s perspective and seek a resolution that coincides with both of your conflicting ideas.
Thinking win-win is a long-lasting strategy that will keep people on your side and help you resolve all conflicts in the future.
I really hope you take these tips on boards and utilise them to the best of your ability. I assure you they will benefit you and serve to draw attention to you for all the right reasons.
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