Love it or hate it, office politics exist in every company. Whether a new employee or somebody with long tenure, you should be aware that neither engaging too much in workplace politics nor ignoring it altogether can have a positive impact on your career. So, the big question is how can you manage workplace politics?
What is office politics?
‘’Office politics arises when employees tend to misuse their power to gain undue attention and popularity at the workplace. Employees indulge in work politics simply to tarnish their colleague’s reputation to obtain advantages and come in the good books of their superiors.’’ - Prachi Juneja, Management Study Guide
Two types of workplace politics can be identified – bad and good politics. Being able to distinguish between negative and positive office politics is critical for your career as they may affect not only your chances for promotion but also your working relationships with your colleagues.
‘Good’ office politics
According to The Muse, ignoring office politics altogether may have negative implications for your career and you should aim to be positively politically savvy. This requires the following skills:
Social astuteness. This involves watching your colleagues and how they get on with the managers and senior people in your company as well as observing informal social networks.
Interpersonal influence. Look for the co-workers whose voice is heard and who have the ability to influence others. Just keep in mind that these kinds of people don’t have to be in senior roles.
Networking ability. Once you know who has the power to influence other people in your office, start building stronger relationships with them.
Sincerity. Last but not least, always make sure that your relationships are sincere and not mercenary – only then you will build long lasting rapports and trust.
‘Bad’ office politics
If not handled well, office politics may affect your career in a negative way and can lead to:
Increased conflicts and tensions between co-workers. This in turn, may result in lower job satisfaction and overall happiness of employees.
You may get labelled as the office gossipmonger. Clearly, this is not something to be proud of.
One toxic person can destroy office culture and drive other employees out. Especially if the gossiper is not held accountable for their poor behaviour.
Gossip can hurt. While some people will ignore it, others may not handle it well as not everyone is resistant to gossips.
How to handle office gossips
Keep it for yourself. While getting things off your chest may seem helpful, you should only share your frustrations with someone who you trust 100%.
Don’t bring up controversial topics. While some people will appreciate that you have strong opinions, others will turn discussion into a heated argument.
Don’t fuel the fire. Never pass gossip along…ever. Even if it originated somewhere else, once you repeat it you become part of the gossip vicious cycle.
Avoid the gossiper. If someone starts gossiping to you, you can always gently change the topic or pretend to be busy.
Gossiping is deeply rooted in human nature, but it’s important to remember that repeating information that could harm another person can also have negative effects for you. Practising bad politics may have a detrimental effect on your career and that’s why instead of being oblivious to it, you should be alert and react accordingly. Whereas practicing good office politics can help you establish a strong position in the company or even get promoted. So next time you’re going to share information, ask yourself one question ‘Would I want someone to say that about me?’.