Politics in the workplace is inevitable. Whether you like it or loathe it, you can’t avoid it. Trying to ignore it or turning a blind eye, could actually do you more harm than good.
“The key to winning at office politics is to stop wishing it will go away and to start learning how to thrive in your workplace’s political environment,” says Dr Travis Bradberry, founder co-founder of TalentSmart and co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0.
Learning to navigate and thrive in office politics requires you to understand what office politics actually is, why it arises, what are the rules, who are the ones playing the game, who has the power and influence.
What is office politics and why it arises?
Dr Sam Musa, a professor at Maryland University College, states that organization politics is the process and behavior of human interactions involving power and authority. He claims that office politics and leadership are deeply linked.
Office politics is more than just conjuring gossip or manipulation or ass-kissing to win favors; it is about power, influence and persuasion. According to a survey conducted by Accountemps on 1000 U.S workers, 28% believed that politics was necessary to get ahead, 48% believed it was somewhat necessary while 14 % believed that it was not.
Understand the political scenario of your workplace
The most important step you need to undertake to navigate office politics is to understand it. An article on Forbes says, the answer is to be politically savvy without compromising on your morals and ethics.
Observe your work environment, how things work, who has the real power and influence? Observe the team dynamics, the cliques, who sits with whom during lunch break? Who are the people in the circle of your manager’s influence? What are the unspoken rules? What are the types of behavior that are rewarded or punished?
Find your place, build allies & network
The next step will be to find your place in the workplace. Know your areas of influence, build relationships and allies. You need to make sure to include people from all levels of hierarchy in your network.
This doesn’t mean you have to pick a “side” in the political landscape. Grow your network across different camps who can vouch for you in times of need but at the same time won’t drag you down no matter which party is “winning.”
Don’t get dragged into negative politics
Stay away from gossipers, manipulators and rumor-mongers. Establishing relations or participating in negative politics will be detrimental for your career. If found, you will be deemed untrustworthy and unreliable. You could also face legal action.
Navigating workplace politics can be tricky but trying to stay away from it altogether is impossible. Like in other areas of life, politics is unavoidable. It can take a negative toll on you if you do not learn to manage it. Therefore it is pertinent you understand it, create a strategy, and start building your network while at the same time remaining as neutral as you can.