Politics exists in every organization, and the workplace is no exception. There’s no way around it. It’s part of group dynamics. How people manage the politics is the key to getting ahead in their careers.
First learn the difference between good and bad office politics. The bad side is more obvious than the good.
Gossip – a major career killer. Ever play the game of gossip as a child? Everyone stands in a circle and one person whispers something to the person next in line and then that person passes it on to the next. By the time the secret gets around the circle, it has completely changed and often times doesn’t resemble the original message at all. Want your name associated with something like this? Walk away from this kind of behavior and do not participate in passing on rumor-type information. I’ll guarantee it will come back to haunt you.
Credit stealers – Some people who don’t have enough confidence in their own ability, hope to get ahead by grabbing the credit for something they didn’t do. Give appropriate credit where credit is due.
Suck ups – These are the folks who constantly push themselves in front of the influential people for personal gain and never give their coworkers any attention at all. Bosses aren’t blind and see right through this kind of action.
Backstabbers – This type feels there’s no better way for self-promotion than to bad-mouth other employees. They think they’re making themselves look good by making others look bad. This approach has a major chance of backfiring.
Information withholders – These employees keep important details to themselves and don’t share with the rest of their team so they can be the hero in the end who comes up with a solution or a new idea for a project. Knowledge is power so make sure your whole team has access to the information they need to do their job.
Of course there are other behaviors that fall into the bad politics category, but these are the worst. Be aware that these kinds of things happen all of the time, so keep your eyes and ears open and stay away from them.
Now let’s move on to how to use office politics in a positive fashion. If done properly, it’s a way to highlight you and your team’s good work and the impacts of successful projects.
1) The first thing to do is to listen and observe. Discover not only the formal hierarchy of the powers that be but the informal structure as well. Learn who the influencers are and be sure to build strong positive relationships with them. Learn the culture of the office.
2) Network and interact with everyone. Whether you like them or not, learn about their backgrounds and understand their history, which influences how they think. This will help knowing how to deal with them in the future.
3) Keep people informed. Make sure to communicate clearly to all those who need the information. Be open and transparent to everyone.
4) Learn to be persuasive instead of confrontational. It will help in getting more things accomplished through other people.
5) Be friendly to everyone. Avoid isolating individuals. Make others feel a part of the team.
6) Provide help to others. You never know when their help may be needed in return.
7) Be assertive and not aggressive and always use facts, not hearsay, when making major decisions or formulating a position.
8) Remain professional at all times, regardless of whom you are dealing with. When angered or frustrated by something someone has done, before reacting, take a time out and think about the consequences of various actions. You have a choice as to how to respond.
9) Strengthen your interpersonal skills and use them to manage meetings and projects. Become known for your mediation and negotiation talents in stressful situations. Be diplomatic and tactful at all times.
10) Remain current with the needs of the job, as well as the company policies and procedures. Keep up with technological changes and other critical knowledge.
11) Don’t align with one group. Remain neutral. Players might change in the future and you don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side.
12) Keep things on a business level. Don’t let things get personal. Don’t become a victim. Look for win/win solutions.
13) Build trust with coworkers. If you’re told something in confidence, keep it to yourself. Keep promises and commitments. Honor deadlines. Let your associates know they can count on you.
14) Document discussions and keep records of decisions and outcomes. These may be needed for future reference.
15) Keep your integrity. Be true to your own belief system and morals. If the company culture or an individual is pushing you to do things you feel are dishonest, unethical, or creates discomfort, then consider finding a new job. Don’t be forced to go against your own principles.
Unfortunately, office politics is a fact of life. It can’t be ignored if you desire to progress with your career. You’ll find it everywhere. So the best thing is to learn how to cope with it and make it work for you. Use these suggestions and stay away from the petty game playing and ugly gestures of the negative tactics. Learn the positive side of politics and succeed in becoming a valuable asset to the company and a flourishing career will be yours.