With an increase in the population of working professionals around the globe, most of us have by now experienced something that we commonly refer to as workplace politics. Google would tell you that it is a term usually used in a negative connotation wherein it refers to the strategies used by people in order to seek advantage at the expense of others, or for the greater good. Be it in the form of somebody who triggered it, somebody who was at the receiving end of it, or just as a watcher - almost all of us have had some involvement in it at some point in our lives. It is more common than we think it is, and if not handled with caution, it may cause unwanted damage.
According to a survey by Accountemps published in the Wall Street Journal, about 16% of the respondents found it best to participate in office politics in order to get ahead, while 29% preferred keeping their distance. 54% of the participants, however, said that they would want to know what’s going on, but not be involved in it themselves. Workplace politics can stem from certain factors such as: jealousy towards ones coworker, superiority complex, personal objectives, or the need to bypass others in order to achieve success, especially at the time of performance appraisal. Another study conducted by baselinemag.com had 54% of its participants claim gossiping or spreading rumours to be the most common form of office politics.
Some of the ill-effects of Office Politics are:
In order to maintain ones efficiency as a professional, as well as preserve the workplace ambience, it is very important to know how to deal with office politics. It may be unavoidable at times, which is why handling it like a pro is what one should know.
Rapport formation is key
The very first and basic steps towards anything that involves the presence of individuals other than yourself is relationship building. Even at work, your interpersonal connections can be crucial to your survival and wellbeing as a professional. Engage in substantial conversation with those around you, including the politically strong ones - don’t be afraid to get to know your co-employees.
Identify the power players
While rapport formation can help you stay afloat amidst the waves of workplace politics, that is not the a-z of it. The next step would be to identify the influencers within your organisation. These power players may not mandatorily be senior subordinates. They can be anywhere - depending upon the situation, as well as their political abilities. Their identification would not only help you remain alert, but would also enable your understanding of whether you would wish to get involved with them, maintain distance from them, or choose to simply go with the flow.
Exercise your observational skill sets
Another source that may give rise to office politics are controversial conversations. As a result, it is best to evaluate situations and its people beforehand. An effective way to enhance your observational skill sets is by engaging in active listening to avoid saying something that may come back to bite you later on. Do this by following the 2:1 rule wherein you listen more and speak less by virtue of having 2 ears and 1 mouth respectively.
Encourage healthy behaviour
A great way to combat negativity is by boosting positivity. Things such as praising the good work of your coworkers, engaging in meaningful conversations, and sticking to your commitments among others can do wonders for you at work, and help you to remain in the clean zone.
Apart from observing others, it is also important that we analyse our own conduct when it comes to our people at work. At times, we may be so busy evaluating those around us, that we may forget to do the same thing to ourselves first. The key here is to be alert when it comes to your attitude and behaviour towards your colleagues, so as to avoid any kind of discomforting situations and/or conflicts.
More often than not, the safe neighbourhood is also commonly known as neutral land. This where people have neither a positive, nor a negative outlook towards a situation or a person. Neutrality may also imply that one simply has no judgement towards something at all. Remember: words can slay. The same thing said by you can be perceived differently by different people, hence be cautious when it comes to what you choose to let out.
Do not confuse your formal and informal relations
Being friends with your coworkers is great, since it promotes a positive office ambience; however, know where to draw your line. Revealing too much personal information to a colleague may have the tendency to do you more harm than good at times. No matter how close we may feel to somebody, if they happen to be a colleague, it is always safe to set certain limitations, or rather to have a professional framework within which we would like to function while at work.
Steer clear of workplace romance
As much as I understand that we cannot always control who we fall for, what we decide to do about that feeling is always a choice. Workplace romance may seem convenient for some, as they may call it as“having the best of both worlds”, but in order to take that extra measure from your end in keeping away from workplace politics, it is best to avoid mixing your professional and personal lives, and keeping separate environments for both.
Promote visibility of your achievements
It is important that one uses constructive ways to over-communicate their skill sets and achievements, so that people know who they’re dealing with. That said, ensure that you do not begin to appear over-confident or snobbish in the process of it all - that is the whole context behind adding the word ‘constructive’ prior to over-communicating. When your colleagues are well aware of your capabilities, it would help keep office politics at bay.
Personalism v/s Professionalism
At times, somebody may simply say or do something in order to trigger a negative reaction from a person. This is where it is one’s individual responsibility to remember to not take professional attacks personally, and refrain from getting too emotionally involved into matters that are work-related. It is easier for a calm and composed individual to survive workplace conflicts, and that is something that one can achieve through thorough segregation of their personal and professional lives.
In the end, it is all about knowing your boundaries, and saying the right thing to the right person in the right manner at the right time! Hope this helps. ;-)
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