HomeOpinion & AnalysisCorporate jungle: Surviving office politics

Corporate jungle: Surviving office politics


Emmanuel Zvada
DO you know that when you think of politics, almost everyone will think of “how the country is run”.

Organisational politics is ubiquitous and if you think your workplace is without politics, then perhaps you have been blindsided. In fact, all workplaces are political, simply because people bring their personal emotions, needs, desires, and insecurities into their professional lives.

What is workplace politics

Politics in organisations refer to the use of one’s individual or assigned power within an organisation for the purpose of obtaining advantages that are beyond one’s legitimate authority.

All workplaces are political to some extent, just because employees converge from different backgrounds with different ways of doing things that only can trigger office politics.

When employees meet at workplaces, they bring their own personal emotions, needs, ambitions, and insecurities into their professional lives. If all these differences are not merged or these differences become difficult to manage, that’s where office politics arises.

Office politics is a reality in many organisations, there is backstabbing and intimidation everywhere.

Escaping the influence of organisational politics requires you to consciously choose your reaction to the situation.

One has to recognise that no matter how bad the circumstances might be reacting well, will result in one not being affected by politics.

High performers are those who understand the art of winning in office politics.

If you want to become a full-fledged professional in your industry, you have to learn how to deal with office politics or prevent becoming part of it.

Some tips to handle and manage office politics:

Avoid trigger words

Every office has sensitive issues that trigger others to react, potentially working themselves into a frenzy.

What you want to do is avoid topics that make co-workers and managers think about these issues. Some of the most powerful words are words you use everyday.

These words can easily and unwittingly exaggerate your message and intent. Cautious people know what words to stay away from and maintain their influence and impact.

Avoid taking sides at work

Individuals should avoid appearing to take sides in any conflict that may happen in an organisation. In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in-between two powerful figures who are at odds with each other.

In cases like this, avoid taking sides, rather distance yourself from the issues and act as if you are not part to it. By this you are trying to be impartial and avoid hurting one individual by taking the side of the other.

By not taking sides, the issue will be handled in an objective manner that will not dent your trust with both parties.

The best way to avoid office politics is to stay focused on your work.

You were hired to do a job, and that job should not be interrupted because you want to listen to stories about dating and relationships.

When the rumours start flying, take the opportunity to design more streamlined processes for the company. Invent new product lines. Devote yourself to your work.

Do your job effectively and efficiently

The tried, true, and tested method of surviving office politics is simply doing your job well. The moment you configure yourself that you are supposed to perform your duties efficiently and effectively, you will be left with no time to waste especially in following and being involved in office politics.

Hard workers, who are determined, focused and goal oriented are difficult to target. In case you are involved in politics, be constructive.

One should be in a position to learn how to steer the discussion in a direction that is constructive, and this is possible when we avoid petty differences but be resolution seekers.

Avoid gossiping

Gossip is often at the root of office drama. One of the most venomous, hurtful, and dangerous activities you can engage in is gossip.

Everyone has experienced the distructive nature of gossip before.

Whether the people involved did not mean direct harm, gossip has always broken trust and hurt feelings. Remember to do unto others what you want them to do unto you.

Avoiding gossip can also help to reduce office politics, that is to say we should not gossip about our co-workers.

Sometimes it is very difficult to close ears when others are talking, but my advice would be for you not to spread gossip against a co-worker.

Continuously learn about your company and everyone

Learning about your company is not only done during induction, it is an ongoing process.

Very few people are humble enough to learn, but it is critical so that you are not dragged into office politics unknowingly.

Before walking into a crossfire or being caught on one side of a conflict, get to learn people in your organisation.

Know who your supervisors are, the office policies and procedures, and the organisational structure.

This way, when things get bad, you know how and when to report formally, and to whom you should submit the complaint or report. By learning office policies and procedures, you can easily know who to report to, how to deal with a situation as well as what is supposed to be done.

Don’t tolerate political behaviour

Everyone’s success should be measured, first and foremost, on the overall company objectives.

The pushing of personal agendas, no matter who is doing it or at what level of the organisation, should not be rewarded.

The minute leadership accepts political or bureaucratic behaviour, it is an invitation for it to be rampant within the company culture. If you are yourself all the time, there is no worry about how you would behave.

Do not act like a servant of co-workers and a master to others.

Be aware of your position within the company’s hierarchy, but do not let that affect your actions.

Avoid the politics of the office, as it can only lead to trouble. Take the time to cultivate your position as a neutral party.

Office politics can’t be eliminated  but the potential harmful effects can be managed.

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