The modern office environment can sometimes be a difficult place where game-playing, duplicity and even malevolence can run rampant within departments or across organisations. In my many years of corporate experience, I am often saddened by the number of talented employees who instead of using their skills for promotion resort to intrigue to either discredit colleagues or to obtain an unfair advantage to succeed.
Good and bad office politics
Office politics are the strategies people use to gain advantage, either personally or for a cause they support. The term as we know it usually has a negative connotation in that it refers to strategies people use usually at the expense of others. It can be a major issue in business because the individuals who manipulate their working relationships consume time and resources for their own gain at the expense of the organisation.
In this context, politics often adversely affects the working environment and relationships within it. Because of the various negative connotations, many people see office politics as something to be avoided. However, to ensure your own success you may need to learn how to successfully navigate your way around this minefield.
And, if you ignore the fact that it exists and therefore avoid dealing with it, then you may get left out of the loop while others could take unfair advantage of important information.
However, ‘good‘ office politics can help people to promote both themselves and their cause. And you may well miss out on opportunities that could be beneficial to you, your team or the cause that you support, if you ignore it.
To deal effectively with office politics and to use it positively, you will need to first accept the reality and learn strategies to exploit it advantageously.
Here are some of my tips to help you work the system:
- Build your network
Forge strong alliances by sharing credit for successes and delivering on promises. As you build your relationships, use them to steer clear of negative comments on others while at the same time promoting yourself and your team. Interactive communication at all levels keeps you in the loop and enables you to make considered decisions based on correct information.
- Get to know the people who practice bad politics
Instead of ignoring them, consider getting to know them better. Try to understand their motivations in order to work more harmoniously with them. Be polite, but be careful about what you say because the obtaining of information is usually part of their skill set.
- Watch what you say ‘in confidence’
Confidentiality does not mean the same to everyone, so be very careful with whom you entrust sensitive information.
- Never admonish someone publicly
As much as you may be tempted, take good care not to be seen as unprofessional or out of control — both of which could affect your future career prospects.
- Avoid smear campaigns
Gossiping can easily damage your credibility. When upset or frustrated, it is advisable to wait until you have calmed down before expressing any concerns. And when you do, then be brief but accurate.
- Remain true to your values and maintain integrity
Don’t play underhanded games to gain promotion. Don’t be one of those who will do anything just to win at the expense of your own integrity.
- Rise above interpersonal conflict
Don’t get caught-up taking sides — you may just end up by backing the wrong horse!
- Do not be afraid of politically powerful people in the organisation
Get to know them better instead. Do your best to be friendly with everyone and don’t just align yourself with one specific group to the exclusion of all others. It will be far better for you to be part of multiple networks, this way you can see exactly what is going on within the organisation but from different perspectives.
Positive or negative, office politics are a fact of life. Remember, be cautious and learn to use its power positively while diffusing the efforts of others who abuse it.