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Effectively Navigate Office Politics

Published on Thursday, 09 Mar 2017

Most professionals like to leave politics out of the workplace, refraining from discussing hot political topics in the office because of its volatile and emotional nature. Unfortunately, not all forms of politics can be avoided in the workplace, especially those concerning office politics. While most people loathe the idea of office politics and how it may affect their day to day responsibilities, we must learn to master and navigate office politics in order to be successful and keep our sanity on the job.

Understand the hierarchy. Most companies have a chain of command and unless it isexplicitly a part of the company’s culture to deviate from that, you should respect and abide by those rules. If you have an issue with a coworker, try to address it directly with the person in question. Only go to your manager if your coworker is aggressive or unresponsive to your concerns. Bring your HR department into the conversation should the issue escalate. Never try to throw anyone under the bus, so to speak, or go behind their back with a complaint as it will only reflect poorly on yourself.

Be as transparent as possible. Honesty and clarity are key when it comes to navigating office politics. Hiding behind veils of secrecy will only make the office environment murky and lead to mistrust. Communicate often and be as open to discussion as possible so that everyone at the company understand the reasoning behind certain actions. By doing so, you instill a sense of participation and inclusion that will help avoid any negative feelings or confusion. 

Learn how to read people. It doesn’t take a genius to know that every co-worker or manager is different in temperament and work style, but most professionals will still treat everyone the same way with little or no effectiveness. While you should always be yourself and stay as genuine as possible in all your interactions, you can learn to adapt your behaviour and the way you speak with someone depending on their own personalities, motivations, and body language. For example, if you want someone who lacks self-confidence to head up a new project, instead of stressing how important the project is and how failure would result in disaster for the company’s bottom line, which will only make them feel more anxious and unsure of their own abilities, explain how their past performance and successes make them the right person to head up such a crucial project. By knowing how to deal with individuals in the way that communicates the best with them, you’ll be viewed more favourably and you’ll be making a stronger impact in the workplace. 

Be aware of your surroundings. The office can often be a minefield with any number of  triggers that can throw office politics into an imbalance. Educate yourself about the office and your peers. Have a basic understanding of the company’s organisation and how each department is structured, making sure that you know who your point of contact for any given team should be. If your peers are experiencing any life-changing experiences, be sensitive to that and act accordingly, such as not asking your pregnant colleagues about their weight or 
avoiding discussing controversial issues in the common area with someone you know shares an opposing view. 

Don’t take things personally. Emotions may be hard to control or contain, but it’s important to try not to take office politics personally or to allow them to get the best of you. View office politics as a strategy game that you may not always win and you’ll fare much better in your career. If you feel yourself getting too personally invested at work, walk away if you can until you calm down. If the situation doesn’t allow you to leave, look away from the person you are confronting. Avoiding eye contact can help prevent the instinctive flight or fight response that kicks in when we feel under attack. Find your emotional balance and then continue the conversation.

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