If you are reading this you are probably one of many people who want to just come to work, do a good job and make a difference. You find yourself, instead, caught up every day in office politics.
While you probably just want it to go away, or find an organisation where it doesn’t exist, the bad news is that is unlikely to happen. It is a fact of life in most organisations. More importantly, you ignore it and its consequences at your professional peril.
Office politics – the strategies people use to gain advantage in the workplace – is nearly always seen as a negative and the harder people play the game, the more difficult, stressful and overwhelming it becomes for all those caught in the cross-fire.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a negative. It is a game, but you don’t have to play dirty. You do, however, have to play. You have to become politically astute and savvy and learn the rules of the game. It’s a skill, and learning to use that skill in constructive and positive ways is essential for anyone who wants to advance their career today. If you don’t, you can very easily be side-lined for opportunities and promotions, not have your talent recognised and be taken for granted. Your reputation will suffer. You will be seen as not having the qualities to rise to leadership. You’ll get left behind, denied the success you rightly deserve.
In most organisations today there are limited resources and employees are all, to varying extents, jockeying to get their share of those resources to be able to do their best job possible. There are also limited opportunities for promotion. Most organisations are now much flatter and many rungs of the career ladder have disappeared. Again employees will jockey and do what they can to make sure they get access to those limited opportunities for promotion.
This doesn’t mean you have to be deceptive and manipulative to advance your career or get access to the resources you need to do a good job. It does mean recognising that the work landscape has dramatically changed. You are working in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous new economy. It is vitally important to develop the skills you need to work constructively to advance your career in this new workplace environment without having to resort to the dirty games often typifying office politics.
Some Thoughts On How To Manage The Dirty Office Politicians.
You don’t try and beat them at their own game by using their tactics against them. You don’t fight fire with fire. You then become part of the problem, instead of part of the solution. If you want to retain your credibility, do the opposite to them:
- disengage from unhealthy conversations in the office,
- don’t engage in gossip, rumour-mongering and smear campaigns,
- don’t pass gossip on either verbally or by email,
- don’t isolate others,
- don’t put people down,
- don’t behave deceptively, no matter how good the reason appears to be.
You don’t let them press your buttons so that you react verbally and aggressively to them because this will suck you into their dirty game.
You don’t take sides because the struggle is not an honest, transparent and fair one. Even if you take the side of the office politicians in order to stay where you perceive the power to be, they will use you if they have to, to advance their ends without any consideration of your needs. This doesn’t mean you opt out or disengage. It means you rise above it all.
You don’t let yourself become the victim of the office politicians. They have won if you do. It is a reactive position and you do yourself no favours professionally by acting that way.
You don’t get into attacking their personality. Stay with the facts.
What Do You DO Then About Office Politics.
You become politically savvy and astute. Another way of putting it is that you become politically intelligent. The opposite of being politically savvy and astute is being politically naive, believing that everyone thinks and behaves like you, and not even anticipating the possibility that the office politicians have made their manipulative game into an art form. Becoming politically savvy and astute is about skilfully practising workplace diplomacy. It gives you power and influence to change things.
So don’t shy away from the political. What does that mean? You need to understand how power works in your professional world and organisation. Who holds both the formal and informal power? How do they exercise it? What do you find empowering? What do you find disempowering? How are you going to respond to those power situations? You mightn’t like what you discover, but if you want to move on and up, you need to be able to engage with it and negotiate it. You need to be able to do that with integrity and in a way that sits well with your values.
How Do You Learn To Be Politically Savvy and Astute?
That’s what my workshop is about in Geelong on Thursday, 7th April, 2016. It is being conducted by CPA Victoria, Geelong Branch but open to everyone. It is over lunch 12 noon to 2 p.m. For details and bookings, contact Roger Butcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile: 0418 363670
I conducted this workshop in Bendigo and Shepparton in early March and it was received very well with enthusiastic feedback.