The first rule of office politics is that you don’t talk about office politics. But if you belong to an organization where the tremor of office politics has the potential of shaking the ground under your desk, then you will know that, like it or not, there is a high probability that you will get sucked into it.
But before we delve any further, it is important to note the exact definition of office politics. According to Webster’s Dictionary, it refers to “the activities, attitudes, or behaviours that are used to get or keep power or an advantage within a business or company.” More often than not, the two words contain a negative connotation and are looked at nervously, because once you’re caught in the middle of it, there’s no easy way out.
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Following is a clear-cut example of the bias and hierarchy that office politics promotes:
X and Y are working together on a report over the weekend, as their boss needs it by Monday. X is looking for a promotion desperately and in a moment of calculated panic, decides to oust Y from the competition. So nice and early on Monday morning, X goes to his and boss and ‘confidentially’ tells him that he worked the whole report alone, since Y was too busy getting drunk on Saturday night and recovering through Sunday. Y gets a bad reputation, X gets critical acclaim and a month later, receives the promotion he sought so dearly.
If office politics is a norm in your organization, then in all probability ignoring it isn’t going to get you anywhere. Instead, you should look for ways to negate its effects. To this end, here are a few tips for all business leaders and entrepreneurs on how they can counter office politics at their workspace.
In most cases, there will always be two sides to an unofficial passive-aggressive fight. Either between the authorities and the employees or between the employees themselves. It is imperative that you make it known that you are not comfortable with supporting either side, because the minute you choose one over the other, you’re risk messing up your professional rapport with the other. You will come to understand this later when you need their help in anything. For this, you should maintain friendly relations with everybody so that your colleagues will understand that you do not judge or rule by bias and hence cannot be roped in amongst the masses.
When you’re caught in the midst of office politics, chances are that your patience and temper are going to be tested. A lot. But you have to drill it into yourself to not let your emotion get the better of you, because the minute you make it personal with someone you are working in close quarters with, you are risk harbouring indefinite hostile relations with them. This could come back to kick you nicely in the rear.
Sometimes, what passes of as ‘idle office gossip’ can ruin someone’s career. If your colleague comes and tells you about the two employees from the HR Department who are sneaking around between meetings, you should make it a point not to play your part in the Chinese Whispers that are sure to follow. For all you know, the ‘harmless news’ could reach a higher authority. and depending on the office policy, the two involved could risk losing their jobs. So in these cases, either turn a blind ear or change the topic successfully to make it clear that you are not a part of the gossip-chain.
You never know when some colleague could be harbouring ill feelings towards you and is doing their best to get you into trouble with your boss and colleagues. To protect yourself from undue potential accusations or rumours, make sure that your hard work is well-certified and documented. This way even if push comes to shove, you have hard-lined proof for all the effort you have put in.
If you’re a business leader, you should rally to set forth incentives for your team, so that they learn how to work well together. In a large organization, specific departments are set out to compete with one another so that they can be credited with the success of the organization. This fosters aggressive hostility between the employees of the respective departments, and eventually no one wins. To ensure a united work-front, you should make your employees feel united by offering them incentives like team-dinners, picnics, holidays and raises. This way, they will only be happy to work together on projects and campaigns. Your motto in these cases should be – many heads are better than one.
Handling office politics requires a lot of tact. While it might seem impossible to be rid of it, taking a few small steps can help you keep it at bay.