Office politics are the tactics people use to gain advantage.
Whether you hate it, admire it, practice it or avoid it, office politics is a fact of life in any company. And, like it or not, it’s something you need to understand and if you can, work with.
(If I’d been more savvy about the subject I’d now be lazing on a yacht in Monte Carlo instead of in my office typing this.)
But there’s positive and negative office politics. I came across an article which put it quite succinctly: the bad is when people use strategies to seek advantage at the expense of others; the good office politics help you fairly promote yourself and your cause.
Why work politics are inevitable:
- Some people have more power than others, either through hierarchy or some other basis of influence.
- For many people, gaining promotion is important, and this can create competition between individuals, or misalignment between the team’s objectives and those of individuals within it.
- Most people care passionately about decisions at work and this encourages political behaviour as they seek to get their way.
- Decisions at work are impacted by both work-related goals and personal factors, so there is further scope for conflict.
- People and teams within organisations often compete for limited resources; this can lead to a kind of “tribal conflict” where teams compete to satisfy their objectives.
Can you navigate this?
Yes but only when you know where the power and influence lie. So, pinpoint:
- Who gets along with whom?
- Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
- Who is involved in interpersonal conflict?
- Who has the most trouble getting along with others?
- What is the basis for the interrelationship? Friendship, respect, manipulation?
- How does the influence flow between the parties?
Finding this out, take these few rules to take on board:
- Don’t get sucked into interpersonal conflicts.
- When voicing objections or criticism, make sure you take a company perspective not a personal one.
- Don’t rely on confidentiality – assume things will be disclosed and so decide what you should reveal accordingly.
Whether you like it or not office politics are a fact of life. Wise politicking will help you get what you want in the world of work without compromising others in the process. Learn to use its power positively while diffusing the efforts of those who abuse it.