Strategies to Avoid the Pitfalls of Office Politics
With all of the current political turmoil in our country, and the word “politics” having such a negative connotation, I recently began to wonder how we can navigate the complexities of office politics without experiencing the pitfalls that often accompany them.
First, it is important to understand what the term “office politics” refers to. The term “office politics” references the strategies that are used to get ahead in the workplace and often involve social networking and the illusion of power. While these strategies can provide advancement opportunities within an organization, they are often associated with getting ahead at the expense of others with little regard for team members or the organization itself. Unfortunately, office politics are a reality and most people encounter difficult interpersonal conflicts in the workplace at some point in their career; however, there are strategies that you can use to avoid the pitfalls of office politics while still advancing in your career.
Strategy #1: Have integrity in your interactions with others in the workplace by making sure that as you rise to the top, you aren’t advancing at the expense of others. You can accomplish this by carefully choosing how you talk about others on your team. If you have a complaint about a team member, don’t go behind their back and talk about it with a fellow coworker; instead, have a conversation with them directly or seek advice from your HR manager. While it is important to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each member of your team, you will lose the respect and trust of those you work with if you choose to participate in gossip. If you are asked about fellow employees, stick to the facts rather than personal opinions. After all, like your work, their work should speak for itself without additional commentary.
Strategy #2: Build positive and lasting relationships in the workplace by getting to know the people that you work with directly as well as the people who influence your position. Talk to these individuals and find out ways that you can work together to ensure that everyone’s ideas and interests are taken into consideration while completing tasks and making decisions. The employees who make a real impact in the workplace are those who demonstrate the ability to collaborate and understand how different positions can work together to succeed.
Strategy #3: It can be easy to form a clique of individuals who are like minded at work; unfortunately, these cliques often exclude coworkers who have different talents and strengths that would make the team stronger and more complete. By overcoming the “mean girl” mentality of exclusion, and encouraging inclusion instead, you are able to demonstrate your awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of members of your team, and how to utilize them appropriately.
Strategy #4: Our reactions to conflict are often very instinctual, so when we are confronted with conflict in the workplace our reaction is generally fight or flight. While fighting gives the appearance of aggression and reluctance to work collaboratively, flight will give you the label of the office pushover. When there is conflict or a difference in opinion in the workplace, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself by using facts to support your stance. The key to handling conflict is to stay calm, truly listen to what the other person is saying and reach a resolution that is mutually beneficial. The ability to resolve conflict without fight or flight is impressive and important when navigating office politics.
Strategy #5: Elect to not choose sides when two strong personalities encourage coworkers to get involved in their disagreement in the workplace. If you find yourself in a situation where you are feeling pressured to take a side, the best course of action is to resist the urge to choose. Instead, focus what is best for the company and stay as objective as possible. It is better to be the employee who has a good working relationship with everyone because they chose to avoid taking sides.
Although office politics are unavoidable, you can choose to rise above them and use strategies that will help you to avoid the pitfalls that they present.