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May 08

How to survive office politics

office politics

How do you deal with office politics?

My dad used to work as a supervisor for one of the leading department stores (at least at that time, around the mid-80’s) here in Manila.  He practically worked there throughout his entire career.  The pay wasn’t much but it was enough to put food on our table and give me and my  sister quality education.  My dad would have pursued other opportunities that would bring in more income but I saw how passionate he was with what he was doing that I understood why he didn’t.  He started out as a sales clerk and went up the ranks to become a section head later on.

I was already in college when he was encouraged by several of his colleagues to run as union president.  His opponent back then was the current personnel manager at that time.  My dad eventually lost but he soon learned that much of the reason for his defeat was due to red tape and character assassination.  To say he was backstabbed would be an understatement because his opponent almost became an Electrolux salesman, going door-to-door, telling each and everyone the nastiest, below-the-belt stories to discredit him.

My mom and dad told me this more than 10 years ago but I still remember every detail because when I started working and even to this day, this kind of scenario still happens right before my eyes or, the better term would be behind my back!

I’ve been working for almost 15 years across three companies and office politics is one of the things these three had in common.  They only differed in severity but make no mistake about it, office politics is and will always be part of any workplace.  The reason?  Two things.  Envy and Pride.

I noticed that even if the scenarios are different, whether it’s about promotion, ideology, or differences in opinions, they all stem from these two emotional states.  In a group of diverse individuals, conflicts are bound to happen.  Disagreements are inevitable and it’s perfectly normal because the job of each individual involved is to resolve the conflict.  This will only be classified as office politics if the disagreements are not properly communicated and the issue is not addressed.

As an individual working in such hostile environment, it can become difficult to be caught in the middle of the crossfire.  You have management who is responsible for paying your salary and giving you a way of living on one side and a group of individuals you consider friends and colleagues on the other.  So where do you figure in all these?  How do you deal with office politics?  Here are some suggestions you might find handy:

 

Don’t take sides

When caught in the middle of the holy war between management and staff, it is always good to be neutral.  Be on the safe side so to speak because taking the position of either one will only do you more harm than good.  These are one of those moments when it’s better to be a spectator than to be a participant.

Why?  While everyone is inclined to take management’s side so as not to put our jobs in jeopardy, doing so while in the thick of battle may send your colleagues the wrong signal.  You may be branded as a corporate “kiss-ass” or a “sell out” for doing so.

On the other hand, if you join your colleagues in their crusade, you may then be considered as a rebel.  You wouldn’t want that either would you?

 

Be transparent

If you do not agree with a certain policy that management has implemented, have the courage to voice it out but do it in a professional manner.  Talk to your manager and politely tell him how you find this certain policy to be ineffective or why you don’t agree with the memo they came out with last week.  We all have the right to express how we feel and it’s our manager’s job to listen.

 

Stay away from gossip

Perhaps the best definition you can connect with office politics, gossip is the worst, the lowest that anyone can go to.  It’s the holy grail of office politics.  The opposite of being transparent.  A friend once told me this really great quote: “If you talk to management about your issues, it’s considered a grievance but if you talk to your colleagues, it’s considered gossip”.

If you are a spectator and you hear some colleagues sharing their opinions about an issue with/against management, stay away.  Sharing your opinion will only help ignite everyone’s emotions.  As much as possible, keep your opinions to yourself or just like we said in the second item  above, be transparent.

In Dave Ramsey’s company, gossip  is a capital offense that can get you fired because they have a “No Gossip” policy.  According to Ramsey, gossip is not tolerated in their group and that they immediately address it by firing the individual.

 

Don’t take it personally

Office politics can bring out a lot of emotions with the people involved and more often than not, you will get angry.  You will feel the need to prove a point and to retaliate emphatically.  If you give in to these emotions, you will probably explode and this is what you need to avoid.  Office politics is all about issues at work so keep it that way.  Always make sure to keep your emotions in check and to act and respond professionally.

 

Adapt an “everybody wins” mindset

Office politics is all about the clash of different interests and opinions for which the only solution is to address each of the competing side’s concerns.  Conflicts usually ends in a compromise and for this to happen, one should learn to understand the opposing side’s perspective and what it is they are fighting for.  Once this is done, have a look at what you are fighting for.  What’s in it for both sides?

We all don’t like losing and in a situation like office politics, having one side emerge victorious over another won’t put an end to the conflict.  It may appear that the war is over but sooner or later, issues are bound to arise.

 

Office politics is all about opinions.  Sometimes it happens because of pure miscommunication or misinterpretation of an individual’s reaction towards a certain subject.  The best way to address it is to simply talk.  Say everything that needs to be said, don’t hold anything back and just like what was said above, do it as politely and professionally as you can.

How about you, have you been a part or witness to office politics?  What did you do?

 

If you loved this article, I’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave your comments below

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Noel Rosos

About Noel Rosos

Noel is a husband, father, author, performance coach and self-proclaimed FAILUROLOGIST who helps business owners and struggling individuals convert their failures into opportunities through inspiring blog posts, life-changing books and exceptional one-on-one coaching sessions

2 comments

  1. Steve

    I think more places should adopt the No Gossip policy. Seriously, in some of the places I’ve been it’s been a big serious issue. Sometimes I think it comes down to boredom. People need to spice up their day with a little gossip. Yet, that makes everything counter-productive as it can be quite debilitating to the climate of the company.

    It’s just good to stay away from that kind of stuff. You never know what you might get involved in.

    1. Noel

      totally agree Steve. I love the idea of a No Gossip policy. That would definitely keep the peace and order inside the workplace. Gossip can ignite a whole lot of negative things.

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