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Surviving the dilemma of office politics

Opinion & Analysis
Surviving the dilemma of office politics

OFFICE politics can be a tricky subject to navigate, but sometimes humour can help to lighten the mood. Office politics are a part of every organisation and they are about how people relate at workplaces.

The dilemma of office politics is a common topic that many people struggle with. Office politics is not something you can sit out, but it is also not inherently evil though it can also be a source of conflict, stress and frustration for many employees.

What is workplace politics?

Office politics exists in virtually all organisations. It is the activities performed by individuals to improve their status and advance their personal agenda, sometimes at the expense of others.

These self-serving actions are informal or unofficial and could be the reason why politics in the workplace comes with negative connotations. Escaping the influence of organisational politics requires you to consciously choose your reactions to situations.

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

What causes office politics?

The motives for a person to engage in office politics are such things as: To sell their ideas, achieve a targeted objective, influence the organisation, or increase their power.

To reach these goals, “politically-motivated” individuals will form alliances, bargain, and negotiate to get what they want for themselves and/or for their group.

People or groups within an organisation have different interests. And these interests are not always aligned with the interests of others within the organisation. Therefore, in order to be successful, some individuals engage in office politics.

We must, however, be aware of the destructive aspects of office politics in order to minimise its negative effects. We must learn how to navigate our way through the political landscape of the organisation we work for.

Navigating office politics

Politics is often a taboo as people try to avoid team conflict. But that does not mean it does not crop up at work. Although workplace politics can be difficult to navigate, it is an inevitable part of any organisation.

But when office politics begins to fester, your organisation can suffer. Minimising politics in a growing organisation begins with its leadership, and the best way to accomplish this goal is to encourage transparency and collaboration among team members at all levels.

There are a few tips you can follow to help keep workplace politics positive as you develop a healthy workplace culture.

Encourage communication skills development

Dealing with office politics is essential as a business owner or human resources department, given that it can interfere with the efficiency of the business.

Furthermore, office politics can be the cause of a negative workplace atmosphere and result in employees leaving or staying but being unhappy.

Both in and out of the workplace, effective communication allows you express your intentions and feelings in an easy-to-understand message.

Along with other social skills, effective communication can reduce misunderstandings that arise because of miscommunication. Learning how to have open communication can improve your interpersonal skills to help you understand what others are saying and can make you a better collaborator and team member.

Avoid trigger words and taking sides at work

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 harmful words are words you use everyday.

These words can easily and unknowingly distort your message and intent. Influential people know what words to stay away from and maintain their influence and impact. 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 eliminate yourself from the issue and act as if you are not part of the issue.

Create a transparent workplace

Making information easily accessible can greatly reduce gossip and other issues that otherwise occur due to poor information being provided.

Disseminating information should be made easier for your employees. Make use of team meetings to pass on key and useful information or use noticeboards to post important information at workplaces.

Do not be afraid to call an impromptu meeting if you can pass on information that will take the sting out of what otherwise may degenerate into gossip.

Gossip is one of the most common forms of office politics and it can be quite detrimental if rumour spreads and is left uncontrolled.

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 harm of gossip before. Whether the people talking did not mean direct harm, the result of gossip is always broken trust and hurt. Remember to do unto others the way you want to be treated.

Avoiding gossiping can also help to reduce office politics, we should not gossip about our co-workers. Sometimes it is very difficult to close ears when others are talking, but the advice would be for you not to carry the message forward and do not be tempted to spread gossip against a co-worker.

Continuously learn about your company and others

Learning about your company is not only done during induction or onboarding but rather it is an ongoing process. Very few people are humble enough to learn, but that is critical so that you are not caught unaware by office politics.

Before getting into the crossfire of existing office politics, or being caught on one side of it, get to learn 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 your 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, by the overall company objectives. The pushing of personal agendas, no matter who practices 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 run rampant within the company culture. If you are yourself all the time, there are no worries about how you should act.

Do not act like a servant to some co-workers and a master to others. Be aware of your position within the company’s hierarchy, but do not let that affect your stance.

Office politics is an unavoidable fact of life in every workplace. To accomplish your personal and business goals, you must learn to successfully play the political game in your organisation whether you are a new player or a veteran.

Office politics creates dysfunctional environments where individuals experience hopelessness and even work-related stress and depression. Office politics needs to be handled properly for organisations to succeed.

Emmanuel Zvada is an award-winning global HR practitioner and the managing consultant for 3rdeye Africa Consulting Group Zimbabwe and Namibia. For comments inbox or call +263771467441

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