Whether you choose to get involved in it or not, office politics are inevitable in a workplace. They shape the organisation and sometimes help create a unique company culture, although often for the worse. Handling rude colleagues, making allies and knowing who to speak to in order to get projects moving are vital skills. It might start with a toxic boss or a disagreement but mishandled office politics can quickly blow up. So, how can you handle them?
Unfortunately, ignoring the issue won’t make it go away. You will need to learn how to deal and often ‘play’ office politics. Before you get involved understand the office environment. The office is filled with a complex construction of allies and enemies and you will need to recognise which employee is in which camp. Within each organisation the rules of politics will change so make a mental note of who goes on lunch or a pint after work together. It can lay a foundation of understanding that will help you navigate the office landscape.
Before you get into the politics understand your aim and the potential outcome. Make sure your aim is utilitaristic and benefits the situation rather than fuel it. Think sending that email will make someone angry? Don’t send it. It sounds simple but it is easy to see the red mist and say something in the heat of the moment.
It can be easy to accept low visibility projects to keep people happy but do not be afraid to break out of old patterns and form your own lane. Of course, this decision will come after you understand the office landscape but once you have you should gear up to break free from fear. Not all of your decisions will keep people happy but that is the nature of business. Don’t be afraid to make big strides if you know it is the best thing to do.
As the late Amy Winehouse once sang, “love is a losing game”. She was right, sometimes you can’t avoid office politics even when you show nothing but love. If you feel that someone is meddling try to get a supervisor involved. We are not suggesting ‘grassing’ on anybody as that is likely to fuel the office politics fire. But, asking advice from a supervisor or manager may help get a fresh perspective on the situation. In addition, you could even ask them to mediate a situation you believe is negatively effecting the workplace.
Try to contribute to the politics in a positive way. For instance, if there is excessive gossiping in your allies group try to change the conversation onto a more lighthearted topic. However, avoid lecturing co-workers on the perils of gossips as they will likely resent you and just gossip behind your back. Keep it positive and help create a happier workplace.
Ultimately, you will not avoid office politics. Even if you keep your head down you are likely to encounter some form of them. Remember not to shy away from them as it could effect your career progression. Instead, use your rational mind to form decisions that will benefit the workplace and your future.