Sarah walked into the conference room with her report. Her boss had praised the strategy she had developed for the brand she was working on. It was the flagship brand of the agency and she took pride that he approved it without edits. The room was packed with the creative team and the boss’s boss. She took her seat and before she could begin, her boss took over and began discussing her strategy. As he spoke, she found his tone changing. He was picking holes in it. Sarah was shocked. Perplexed. What’s going on? Last evening, he was filled with praises. What happened between then and now? The creative team sniggered and laughed. The boss’s boss felt that time was wasted. She looked at her boss, enquiringly. She tried to interject, however, he wouldn’t let her speak. She realized she was being annihilated. Her thinking process ridiculed, her understanding, belittled.
When the meeting concluded, she found herself shuddering with pain and the tears flowed, relentlessly. She sat back and reflected, My boss had never quite liked me. It was evident from the first day of the interview. And, at the meeting, he found the opportune time to hit me with all he had. She put a call to her friend and explained the situation to her. What could I have done? She asked. “It’s workplace politics. You need to be political. Politics is everywhere, degrees vary. There will be people who hate your guts. There will be people who hate your confidence. There will be people who want to be like you, they can’t, so they detest you for who you are. There will be people who hate the fact that you have it all. More so, if they perceive you have had it easy, you are an easy game. There will be people who will hate your affluence or the way you connect so easily with people you meet. There will be those who will be affected by your ‘attractiveness’. You will be picked because of your gender. You will be picked because you’re ‘luckier’ or because you are from a different tribe. And, you’ll have to deal with them and the games they play to maraud you and your self-esteem. It doesn’t matter whether your organization is big or small. When there are two or more people, the power struggles will emerge”
Office politics are actions and behaviours involving competition for status or power in the workplace. It arises when employees tend to misuse their power to gain undue attention and popularity at the workplace. Employees mostly indulge in work politics simply to tarnish their colleague’s reputation to obtain advantages and come in the good books of their superiors. This may occur by criticizing the co-worker, talking down about him/her to the superior, or taking credit for their work.Workplace Politics reduces the productivity of individuals and eventually the organization is at a loss. People tend to spend their maximum time in pulling each other down and playing nasty mind games. It increases stress as corporate politics yields a thousand times more stress than a healthy workplace culture. It majorly affects the relationship amongst the individuals. Friends turn foes due to politics. People stop helping and most importantly trusting each other. Office politics also increase conflicts and tensions in the workplace.
Although it is grossly unhealthy, workplace politics is inevitable. The reality is that every organization in one form or another will deal with workplace, office, or what is generally called “corporate politics.” It is a byproduct of efforts to develop a sustainable company culture.You cannot avoid office politics. It’s a fact of life. You may have negative feelings about it, or think you’re taking the high road by ignoring it. However, your lack of attention to what’s happening in the workplace can be extremely dangerous. Avoiding office politics can sabotage your career because in reality, it takes both great performance and political savvy to get ahead, especially in a complex competitive workplace. Due to the negative connotations associated with office politics, many people see it as something to swerve. Yet, it’s no secret that if someone learns how to play their part well and utilizes office politics without hindering their peers – then they will be in a much stronger position to advance their career. You need to be politically savvy. And the good news is that political savvy is a skill that can be learned. You will apply this skill in such a way you don’t need to compromise your integrity and principles. To manage workplace politics, you need to be in awareness of what is going on in your workplace. You need to understand the culture, power, and influence, the rules and system of the organization.
Understanding the work culture will help you know if the culture is conservative, innovative, or hierarchical. Does the work culture encourage patriarchy? Are there gendered roles and stereotypes? Also, is the company aligned with its said values and do these values align with yours? What are the rules, and most importantly, what are the unwritten rules? Does your company have unwritten rules? What are they and how do they affect you? You need to know these things to better plan your political strategies. Understanding power and influence helps you know who has power and influence over your career. Who makes the key decisions about your future in that company? Who influences those decisions? Is it your boss? If so, who is in their circle of influence? Power and influence are constantly shifting so make sure you stay tuned into the dynamics in the office and create visibility with the influencers.
Secondly, develop your people skills. Politics is all about people, so strong interpersonal skills will stand you in good stead when it comes to building and maintaining your network. Reflect on your emotions, what prompts them, and how you handle them. If you can learn to self-regulate, you’ll be able to think before you act. This kind of emotional intelligence helps you to pick up on other people’s emotions, too, and to understand what kind of approach they like or dislike. Also, don’t be that staff who always take sides or play favorites. Be mostly focused on the business objectives and don’t take sides with colleagues who are at loggerheads over a task – even if you like one better than the other. Rather than take sides that could affect you in a long run, place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one blames you for anything.
By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.