There are laws and principles that govern the workplace. We can either ignore them, acknowledge them or abide by them.
These laws and principles are the most visible when someone has been promoted, is moving forward or a new boss is in town. Some appear to be jealous, some try to quickly affiliate with the winner, to show their allegiance. Others are quick to sabotage and to compete.
I am not one to willingly participate in office politics. However, in my opinion, because knowledge is power, the best way to avoid politics is to know the rules. I like to know what is happening, how to read a room, to always be aware of my behavior, and to prepare myself for what is coming.
This advice is also valuable for minorities who encounters western group think in the office, who need to be realistic about their situations and want to understand how to advance themselves, how to protect themselves.
Wondering how to navigate office politics and whether or not you should be interested in it?
What is office politics?
Office politics is a human concept and is inevitable. It is also very necessary and will go on whether your participate in it or not.
In office politics people seek power, leadership, influence and/or control of other people, more responsibility on their job.
Office politics is a particular hard skill because it requires that you control your primitive, impulsive responses to different situations and that you stay in high alert at all times.
The Perks Of Office Politics
Political animals in the office usually get what they want, to evade conflicts and sometimes create them between different individuals. Political animals:
- Have influence. They build healthy relationships, even with toxic individuals.
- Recognize the agendas and powers at play in any relationships.
- Get the best projects, get promoted, get pay raise and other rewards.
- Are trusted for their opinions.
- Get credit for their hard work.
- Get their career on a positive track.
- Have the ability and the tools to deal with opposition and usually wins in a conflict.
- Conserve their energy and focus it on worthwhile issues.
- Avoid being blindsided or facing unpleasant outcomes.
What We Hate About Office Politics
Office politics is often badly perceived because it can be cruel, be viewed as being calculated and manipulative.
Sometimes, office politics is a dangerous and corrosive game but it is a game. It is part of human nature, a social activity, a marathon and not a sprint.
It is often used to sabotage, to manipulate, to deflect or to create a conflict between people.
Therefore, it is not for the faint of heart. Before starting, you must make sure that you are robust, are not dependent on people or other external factors, that you are emotionally detached from your work and that you can clearly separate your identity from your job.
Furthermore, keep in mind that abusing power on the long run does not lead to success.
Principle #1: Defining your purpose
Having greater goals in life will help you sustain and overcome opposition, avoid being pushed around by people or events. Your ultimate goals can be:
- staying at a company and getting your pay check to ensure your lifestyle and to guarantee financial stability.
- staying at a company, evolving, building healthy relationships
- Living the company and finding better
Either way, set realistic goals, expectations for yourself. Next, stay focus on your goals, use your goals to guide your decisions and your behavior.
Principle #2: Know your strengths, weaknesses and limits
Politics and power will challenge your weaknesses.
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses will help you assess your worth, appreciate your contributions at work and determine whether or not you can run with horses. This will also help you identify them in others, understand them, maximize their potential and forgive their weaknesses.
To be effective at office politics, don’t directly demonstrate or enunciate your strengths or weaknesses. It is best to wait for the right moment to do so.
In addition, you must seek to enhance your performance, your productivity, to develop competencies that are hard to acquire or hard to replace. and to deliver great results. Then, discreetly promote your results.
Principle #3: Maintaining your leadership capabilities
It is important to learn to keep your peace and your composure at all times by seriously controlling your emotions. This demands a lot of discipline and will help you grow as a person.
Furthermore, lead by example and take care or yourself first. Great leaders have power but stay humble and don’t abuse it.
To help you manage people, conflicts, to adopt the right behavior, to estimate your position and status:
- Understand the company culture, values and principles.
- Understand the people who you work with, estimate their boundaries and assess their attitudes.
- Believe that hierarchy exist and is gladly enforced in the workplace. This means that you must, at some point, show deference to your “superiors”.This doesn’t mean that your “superiors” have greater character, greater skill sets or greater vision. However, no matter who you are, you won’t be able to freely speak your mind, to make your own decisions, to control your assignments.
Discipline your words and your thoughts
- Stay away from gossip and rumors.
- Watch what you say and how you say it.
- Give substance to your speech.
- Monitor your behavior at all times.
Discipline your emotions
- Get rid of your ego and nurture your sense of humor. If you don’t know something, say so and don’t fake knowledge.
- Don’t waste your time and energy on useless matters.
- Keep your wits about you.
- When someone slights you, don’t give them an emotional reaction.
Principle #4: Behave ethically
- Remain true to your core values.
- Don’t expect to be treated fairly.
- Upgrade your character in order to be unimpeachable from the start. People with low or no ethics are unsuccessful in the long run.
Poor character leads to abusive, aggressive, masochistic, sadist behavior and office politics.
When I was working for a long corporation, one person in the office was being bullied. I was asked, as a team member, to participate in the bullying and to force the person to quit.
Most of my team members, for fun or for fear of retribution, would engage in toxic behavior towards this one person, put down false complaints and manufacture false rumors as well.
Without doing the same, I realized that sadistically beating down on someone, engaging in toxic behavior were not aligning with my core values and wouldn’t allow me to sleep properly at night.
To solve the solution, I simply listened to the request, spoke positively about the person, suggested to them that they had to find a better position and found a better place to work myself.
What was your ethically questionable experience?
Principle #5: Building your network and gaining influence
Networking is an important process, especially if your are shy and introverted. Who you know will determine how far you will get.
Here are some tips below that will help you be unbothered, to gain influence and build positive relationships:
- Protect your reputation at all cost. For instance, if you make promises, live up to them.
- Have a positive attitude. Avoid being mean or offending people for sport.
- Act or be confident. It is important to fake it until you make it, to dress confidently and dress for success.
- Give your best on your job and put your best foot forward. You can even become an expert in your field.
- Empathetic ally listen to your coworkers. This way, you will get invaluable information about the environment, be solution oriented and build strong relationships.
- Look to be respected and not to be liked.
- Seek to integrate the group before you seek to lead it.
- Target people who can help you achieve your goals and let them know what you bring to the table.
- Don’t worry what people say about you, don’t gossip or spread false rumors.
- Avoid too much flattery. You will appear weak to your peers, will erode their respect and the respect of the higher-ups.
- Involve people in your decision-making process.
Principle #6: Friend or Foe?
It is detrimental to discern your friends from your enemies, your confidant from your comrade, your constituents from your compatriots.
Keep in mind that:
- Not everybody is your friend and don’t expect your “friends” to have your back.
- It is better to have allies than to have enemies.
- Your enemies won’t stop at anything to block you from achieving your purpose.
In conflicts or challenging situations:
- Always seek to diffuse tension.
- Avoid taking sides, power struggles but don’t give in to enemies or attempt to please them.
- Mind your business and don’t take anything personally.
- Identify the toxic behavior and the solution for it.
- Don’t stoop to the level of the perpetrator or please the naysayers.
- Don’t play the victim or suffer unfair treatment.
- Ask questions rather than giving answers or have a private chat with an enemy and try to bring them to your side.
- If you are not in position of power or are not favored at your job, accept it and move on, especially if you don’t know how to maneuver the situation.
- If excluded from a group, don’t attempt to fit in, just join a new one or leave the place.
- If you are being openly criticized or insulted, don’t let that affect your self-worth or your work. Agree with the perpetrator without demonstrating emotion.
Principle #7: Change
To handle office politics, one must learn to appreciate change and adapt to it.
- Stay present, stay resilient and robust to conflicts and change, to your own emotions, to the emotions of others.
- Learn to deal with change and quickly recover from your blows.
Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!
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