I often hear clients recounting incidents of office politics gone wrong. However, office politics are not always negative nor do they always have to result in job loss.
Understanding how to respond and to develop a few strategies to turn the dynamic in your favour can help your experience with office politics be one that yields positive results.
Recognize That Politics Is a Necessary Dynamic
Have you ever asked your coworkers to support an idea or defended a colleague’s actions to your supervisor? If so, you have engaged in office politics.
People rarely achieve consensus, even in small groups. Hence, people naturally resort to a variety of strategies to gain an advantage, achieve power, or garner support for an idea. More often than not, your response is what determines whether it is a positive or negative experience. Office politics play a role in your success, and your ability to navigate the dynamic can be the difference between a fulfilling or frustrating career.
Build Positive Relationships
Neutrality is one of the most effective strategies to deal with workplace politics. Rather than forging alliances and taking sides, focus on building positive relationships with peers based on results and trust. Avoid building a relationship on a foundation of personality, values, and preferences, as it might result in a friendship-like a dynamic that will work against you in the future.
Abstain from Making Disparaging Remarks
Although talking down about a co-worker, boss, or company initiative might feel good for a moment, long-term it has great power to damage your reputation. In the future, somebody will use it against you in order to gain an advantage.
In the event you find yourself in a situation where your coworkers are gossiping or blowing off steam by making disparaging remarks, try to remove yourself from the situation. If that is not an option, refuse to make negative comments and instead focus on facts.
Listen, Agree, and Understand
Disagreements can be frustrating and occasionally lead to personal attacks. Rather than taking offence and reciprocating, listen to your co-worker and look for areas in which you can agree. Additionally, call out the personal attacks as inappropriate to alter the tone of the conversation and assume a bit of power.
Try to see the situation through his or her eyes. Ask questions, listen actively, and validate their position by agreeing with whatever points you can without compromising yourself. Your objective should be to grasp the other party’s motivations and needs.
Rarely will you get everything you want out of a situation when other people are involved. Be flexible and look for win-win solutions. Over time, this will earn you respect and trust, which will help you achieve your career goals.
Be the Adult in the Room
Negative office politics can result in childlike behaviour, for example, gossiping, the “mine” dynamic, and intimidation or bullying. You can discourage these behaviours and position yourself as a leader by being assertive, straightforward, and fact-based in your communications.
Additionally, focusing on the positive and emphasizing benefits will help change the tone of a conversation and make it easier to negotiate a compromise.
Finally, exercise a good sense of humour. Few things can break up a tense situation and ease an awkward situation like laughter. When you are successful with office politics, note the positive results and consider including them on your resume as evidence of your interpersonal skills.