Office politics is about power, its accumulation and distribution and some people are good at playing the game. In most organizations, there are cliques, which attempt to gather and dominate resources of the company. Office politics creates a demotivating work environment that reduces employee productivity. Most cases of office politics go unreported and many productive employees leave the company in sheer frustration. They leave the company without clarification during the exit interview. They do not know that office politics is a universal phenomenon and is commonplace irrespective of the size or nature of business. According to C. Mahalingam, “Office politics means and includes all acts of intentional behavior aimed at influencing and enhancing the self-interest of individuals or groups. At a deeper level, office politics represents a complex struggle to dominate and control. Many employees become part of office politics without their knowledge or understanding. It is pernicious because office politics can make or break career prospects and can undermine performance and reward non-performers.” (Business Line, The Hindu, July 18, 2013).
In a survey conducted by Amrita Premrajan (timesjobs.com) on August 12, 2014, it was found that about 62% of respondents said they would choose not to deal with office politics; 12% of employees reported the incident to the manager; and 26% of respondents actually walked up to the concerned people and confronted them about the issues. This implies that a large majority of the employees do not choose to deal with office politics and ignore the issues connected with it.
Office politics creates a hostile work environment. As a result, many employees feel that their concerns and abilities would not be addressed or recognized in an unbiased manner. These employees do not know that politics is a reality you cannot avoid. Back-biting colleagues and annoying subordinates and unappreciative bosses will always be omnipresent. These employees also do not know that by not getting involved, they may find their talents ignored and may have limited success and feel left out of the loop.
One of the dysfunctionalities of office politics is that it compels you to align with a particular group whose interests conflicts with other groups. When you have to align with one group against another to get power, prestige or promotion, you tend to lose your sense of objectivity and you misjudge the situation. Secondly, office politics, by its very nature, gives preferential treatment to your co-workers and thereby you lose an opportunity to show your own work. Without alignment, you find yourself in a wilderness. One study on office politics made in India showed that 18% of employees engage in office politics out of fear of being victimized.
For them, office politics is a defensive posture. Employees indulging in office politics exhibit specific behaviours. Their grudge against a particular person can be easily noticed. From forming groups to alienate that person to questioning his or her ideas and credentials during meetings—these are some of the signs that office politicians show. At the heart of office politics are employees trying to gain control over their careers. Office politics cannot be wished away. Therefore, you as an employee have to adapt to it so that you survive even vicious office politics. Following are some of the ways in which office politics can be used to your own advantage.
First, the most important thing is not to get frustrated by office politics because it has a constant presence in all offices in the world. Second, embrace politics instead of avoiding it. Third, go out of your way to help co-workers and they might do the same for you later. This quid pro quo arrangement can move your career forward faster than just hard work and loyalty. Fourth, study the rules of the game and know what the spoken and unspoken rules are at your workplace. For example, can the budget be stretched or must they be strictly adhered to? Can you answer your personal email messages at work? Can you take a longer coffee or tea break? Fifth, you have to understand that office politics is about power and distribution of power and acquisition of power. Therefore, you have to understand who the power holders in your office are and what the sources of their power are. In order to survive and grow, you have to build relationships with those who have power in order to benefit from them. Six, you will obtain more power in your office if you obtain expert power in your functional area. This makes you indispensable and this indispensability gives you power. This is the best way to rise in your organization where your skills are acknowledged by your superiors who may call you for your advice from time to time. Thus, despite office politics, there is a close relationship between performance and rewards.
The office grapevine not only carries negative traits of colleagues but also carries the gossip about the ability and knowledge of the employees. You may notice that some people get concessions all the time in your office. But do not make an issue out of it because with your abilities and good relationships with your boss, you may also get concessions in your area of work. Avoiding office politics and improving your work abilities and keeping a healthy relationship with your boss are the only ways to get ahead in an organization. Those who curry favor by flattering their bosses may survive in an environment where office politics Is dominant but ultimately they will stay where they are or get left behind. In contrast, you will progress and achieve because of your commitment to work, knowledge of office dynamics, and ability to improve your skills in your organization.