Are you a victim or perpetrator of bad office politics?
Sooner or later, you will find that you play both roles – unless you know how to navigate the waters.
What are office politics, and why are they hated?
Office politics get a bad rap, when they actually should be embraced as part of business expertise.
The problem arises when we don’t know how to work with office politics, or worse, we use them to seek advantage at the expense of others or the greater good. This is when things can turn ugly, personal, and damaging.
If you think you can simply avoid becoming involved, think again. When two or more people are gathered together, there will be politics. Politics are strategies people use in order to gain advantage. As human beings, we do this naturally, in order to get what we want, or to advocate for a larger cause.
At best, we call it “influence.” And since reputations, relationships, and careers are made or broken because of office politics, we should learn to master them so that results turn out to be “win-win.”
We often find it difficult to deal with office politics effectively because we don’t know how to approach them. Because of this, we may unwittingly be promoting them, despite our insistence that we don’t play.
When we realize that office politics are here to stay, we can come out on top and make them work for us.
By following these 3 rules:
1. Strengthen your own circle of influence.
Instead of approaching office politics as damage control, see them as useful dynamics to help everyone get ahead. Focus on the positive by strengthening key relationships on a continual basis to expand your influence. When things get hot, you will be well-positioned to emerge victorious. On the other hand, if you are someone who doesn’t have the advantage of guidance or a support network, and you are constantly trying to prove yourself, you are in a vulnerable position and can be shot down easily, whether you are in the room or not.
2. Avoid dysfunctional patterns.
Don’t take sides. When you do this, you polarize people and cloud the issues. Ask yourself – and others – what the issues are, and avoid disparaging remarks about personalities. Make sure that if things get personal, you are the one who pulls the conversation back to the issues. Don’t climb into the pit with others who want to hurt or discredit.
3. Shift the larger culture.
Select a few key colleagues of integrity, and agree that you will be positive PR for each other. I have worked with many groups of professionals, both in the business world and in international government relations. This one strategy has worked to turn entire company cultures around. Are you in the room when an absent colleague is being discussed? Put in a good word for this colleague. Talk about their latest success with a project, initiative, or the way they approach their work.
I challenge you to see office politics as a way to influence a win-win situation!
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive coaching, leadership development, succession planning, change, and conflict management. She is also a Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.