It doesn’t matter how well grounded you are as a person how polite and friendly you are or even how much you know about office etiquette, the one thing you can never avoid in the workplace is office politics. Wherever you have a group of people with different personalities, sets of values and opinions – which means just about everywhere, you’re going to come across office politics at some time or other. And, whilst that can’t be avoided, it’s important to know how to manage the situation for yourself.
If you hate the very nature of the term ‘office politics’ your first thought might be to simply say that you don’t want to get involved with all of that and that you’re just here to keep your head down, do a job and that’s all. However, it would be the wrong move to adopt that rigid attitude. Let’s look at it on a wider scale. Where groups of people are involved, there are bound to be personality clashes from time to time at work and it’s not simply enough to bury your head in the sand all of the time.
For example, if you’re married and have children or you share a house with a friend or with your parents, there will inevitably be a clash of personalities occasionally and issues will arise that you need to be involved in so that you’re part of the solution. Well, like it or not, the same holds true in the workplace. And, whilst you may be very fortunate and work in an office where everyone gets on all of the time, staff members can come and go so it’s better to be prepared for the occasions when office politics might rear their ugly head. Therefore, it’s far better to adopt some useful strategies to keep the effects of office politics on yourself to a minimum, whilst at the same time still being classed as being on the inside as opposed to being on the outside looking in. What you should be aiming for is to manage any effects of office politics that directly relate to you and to turn them in your favor or at least minimise their effects on you.
Most office politics tend to occur as a result of one or more than one person holding (or being seen as holding) a significant amount of power within the office. These are often the people who will blame others for their mistakes or will try to undermine the efforts and abilities of others to make them feel better about themselves. However, there are several ways you can counteract these actions so that they don’t affect you.
Firstly, try to get to know the politically powerful within your organisation. By not being afraid of them, they are often more receptive to people who aren’t intimidated by them and more willing to listen to alternative ideas. If someone tries to undermine you in a meeting, don’t get drawn into a heated argument. Simply be bold and assertive, but not aggressive, when making your points and if their behaviour persists, calmly take your leave and if you are asked why you did that later, simply say that you found that the meeting was becoming more destructive than positive.
A lot of people who play office politics do so because they are unsure about their own abilities and achievements and try to conceal their own shortcomings behind a façade and to make others feel they less worthy. Therefore, it’s important to be proud of your own accomplishments and, without blowing your own trumpet, make sure that your efforts are recognised and noted by those who matter. If most of the staff are aware that you consistently produce good work, this is far more likely to curry favour more than the office ‘bully’ who may be far less accomplished than you are but who will also try to undermine you whenever possible. Simply view that as their weakness.
Forming an allegiance with a more experienced colleague is often a useful way to counteract any effects from office politics. They will have probably seen it all before and will be able to advise you on how you should handle difficult situations to your advantage. Basically, whilst it’s perfectly acceptable and correct not to become embroiled in office politics and to keep your counsel by not doing things like getting embroiled in idle gossip or bitching about certain people behind their backs, you should also be prepared to defend yourself and to challenge anybody who might be looking to undermine you personally. Always do this politely but assertively (not aggressively) and from a position of strength where you have some facts which you can use that backs your statements up.