Coping Up With Office Politics
Politics is one of the dirtiest aspects of any society.
It involves jockeying for position, grabbing attention, and mudslinging. These exist in any democratic government. Politics can get so cheap and nasty that it almost feels like we are watching a soap opera on television while actually tuning in to late night news.
Unfortunately, unlike soaps where we can detach ourselves from simplistic stories and bawling actors, we have to deal with politics in the office every single day. As if the drudgeries of an eight-to-five job are not enough, we face various people with ulterior motives – superiors, peers, and subordinates alike. It is next to impossible to find a politics-free workplace.
The definition of the word “politics” pertains to “social relations relating to authority and power.” If a person masters the operative words in this definition – managing relationships and handling authority, surviving or even transcending office politics will not be too difficult.
The easier part of the equation is handling authority. It does not matter if we are talking about a superior or a subordinate. We must handle authority with care.
If you are a subordinate dealing with a difficult and close-minded boss, letting him know of your sentiments might only make things worse. The issue becomes bloated exponentially when he finds out indirectly.
Never take out your beef against your boss publicly – not unless you are willing to take the risk of instant unemployment. However, do take advantage of a boss who is willing to listen. Such a superior can be a great mentor, if not great colleague or even friend.
If you are the boss, you should likewise take care not cause something that would provoke your subordinates to hate you. Give credit where it is due; do the praising in public as long as it is proper. Reprimand privately. Listen to underachievers to see if they have problems or need help. Do not give your people reason to believe that you are favoring one worker over another.
The harder part of the equation is managing relationships. It is inevitable that the nuances of a professional relationship will spill over to the personal domain. It may sound like a cliché but communication is the key to effective relationship management.
Present your ideas to peers and superiors alike. This way, the boss has the opportunity to recognize the work that you do. This is also a good way to keep co-workers from stealing your ideas; if others have heard it from you the first time, nobody could steal them.
Acknowledge your peers who presented a good idea or helped you achieve a goal. Thank them for their good ideas. If they know that you recognize and appreciate their work, they would be eager to help you the next time around. They would also be more likely to acknowledge you in the future.
Stay away from colleagues who are sources or magnets of office politics. It would not be too hard to recognize these types. Be on the look out for gossip whispering in pantries and around water coolers. Stay away from constant whiners who never quit their job anyway and the “concerned” seatmate who starts talking about “which person to avoid” in the office, etc. Avoiding them might consequently make you a subject of their “sessions.” Staying away from these people would, in the end, lead to a less stressful and less adversarial work environment.
Finally, constantly ask for feedback. If it is awkward to ask, try to listen and find out. This would be easier in companies with peer evaluation systems. If something comes up against you, try to be objective and evaluate their concerns with an open mind. Many times these would be negative actions that you are unaware of or completely unintentional. Take it as an opportunity to improve yourself; apologize where necessary and appropriate.
These suggestions, if properly applied, would help you coast through and survive a politically charged workplace. It can make your cubicle a “politics-free” environment – at least, until you find a better environment to work in.