No matter how positive your workspace is, you're bound to experience office politics. After all, when a bunch of people come to work together, each person ends up bringing their own biases, preconceived notions and value systems into the equation. If you’re lucky and work in a space where conflict is handled well, then the office politics will rarely affect your life. But if you happen to work in a place where the differences between people are too apparent, it could make your work life difficult. To help you out, we’ve listed a few pointers on how to deal with office politics.
Office politics can be tricky to deal with but here are some things you must remember:
When you join a new workplace, take time to figure out what your co-workers are like. Find out what drives them, what they like, their working style and their circle of influence. This will help you understand them and it is easier to deal with people once you understand them. If you don’t know their motivations, you will never understand why someone does what they do and your responses will never dissuade the situation and instead make it worse.
No matter who you’re dealing with, be genuine. Try and hold your ground and give the opinion you feel is right but in a diplomatic way. Don’t point fingers or try to show anyone else down just to get some extra points yourself. Also, try and be nice to everyone around you. Now, being nice doesn’t necessarily mean being a pushover or fake but it only means being cordial. You’ll need allies in your workplace and your cordial attitude will help you with that.
It is not necessary for you to always give your opinion, no matter where you are. You must know where you can speak and where you shouldn’t. If you say something and it reaches the wrong ears, the repercussions could be quite negative. Choose your confidantes carefully and if you have anything to say, make sure you say it only to them. Don’t make harsh comments in front of people who might use your words for their advantage.
There may be times when you hear you co-workers say mean things about you or gossip about you. It’s natural to feel demotivated and heart-broken in such a case. As far as it’s not seriously damaging your image and mental peace, learn to let go. Don’t get into a blame game or try to malign their image just because they did it to you. Be the bigger person.
Favoritism is something that will not only set you back at your workplace, it will also ruin your credibility. As a team leader, if there are some employees you favor over the others, do not let it show. It’ll only lead to your other team members feeling neglected and making unpleasant remarks about you. While you should care less about what people say, if it affects your professional reputation, it is better to not be biased and treat all your employees the same.
Just like you wouldn’t want to be gossiped about, do not gossip about other people either. If someone comes to you to say unpleasant things about any colleague, shut them down immediately. Gossip mongers stop when they know that there is no one paying heed to what they have to say.
If you think you can find a workplace where there won’t be any politics, you are wrong. Office politics come into play when there are differing opinions or different goals that people want to achieve. So, no matter where you’re working, there will be politics. You might as well accept that it happens and deal with it gracefully.
There are some habits you can develop that will help you win Workplace politics. These are:
When dealing with workplace politics, it is important to remember that you get to choose how you react. In most situations, there are two options in front of any employee - fight or flight. If on instinct, you fight and react in a way that shows you in poor light, it will be counterproductive and hamper your own growth. However, if you choose the flight option and walk away from the situation, you may be considered a pushover with no courage to stand up for themselves or the team. So, for healthy career growth, your reaction needs to be a well-thought-out mix of the two.
There will always be things at work that are out of your control like corporate policies, client feedback or your boss’ reaction to certain situations. These things may interfere with your personal goals and interests giving rise to the most common reactions - bitching and complaining. But you need to remember that bitching and complaining do not add to anything apart from giving you temporary satisfaction. However, there are constructive ways of dealing with such situations - by focusing on your circle of influence being one of them. Every employee has a certain circle of influence - the people, rules and regulations and the situations that concern you and you can control. Eventually, you may not be able to make everything go your way in the larger scheme of things, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did the best you could.
When you’re in a stressful situation, it is easy to react immediately. If you do so, there are high chances that the reactions you get only increase the resistance to your ultimate goals. That is why whenever you’re in a conflict-driven situation, where there are multiple solutions on the table, remember that you need to choose the option that’s best for the business.The only way for an employee to win is if the business is winning. That’s why, sometimes, it’s okay to accept personal defeat when you’re looking at the bigger picture. This way, not only will you be seen as someone who gets things done despite their personal feelings about it, your maturity and conflict resolution will also be appreciated and noticed.
You may, at times, find yourself stuck between two people in power who’re both trying to outwit each other and win at any expense. If you’re in a situation like this, you’ll find that this power play not only comes in the way of you doing your job, it also moves the focus from the business. In such a case, avoid taking sides at all costs, even if you think one alternative is better than the other. Make sure there are open lines of communication where you can voice your opinion in an unbiased and objective manner to avoid a ‘he said, she said’ situation. Also, try and keep all conversations as business-centric as possible while reminding them that they need to think about what’s good for the organization before they consider what’s good for their egos.
In life, one of the major problems we face is that we wish to be understood while making almost no effort to understand others. When the same happens in a work environment, it can give rise to a difference of opinions and ego clashes. If you try and understand the other person’s perspective, whether they are your supervisors or subordinates, it’ll make them less defensive and more open to listening to what you have to say. This just opens up more effective channels of communication helping the two parties reach an amicable decision more easily.
The one thing you need to remember about your workplace (or any workplace, for that matter) is what goes around, comes around. You may sometimes have an urge to tell someone off or give them a piece of your mind but try and resist that urge always. People rarely forget and when you’re working in the same office, you are bound to want their help at some point or the other. So, instead of being rude, try and work out a better solution. If you can’t be friends with them, you can at least be cordial to them.
A win for someone does not always mean a loss for the other. This is a lesson we need to learn as we start working in the corporate world. Office politics happen because of the difference in opinions and people assume that their opinion is right only if the other person’s opinion is wrong. Sadly, things are not so black and white in the professional world. So, to have a more peaceful work environment, constantly ask yourself - “what solution will give us both what we require?”.
This way you will not only be thinking from their perspective, but you will also be able to come to a conclusion that is more wholesome instead of self-serving. Also, the other party will be more committed to this solution since it gives them what they want too. A win-win is usually the only way to go.
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