All of us have an opinion about office politics. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Robert Half International in 2012, 56 per cent workers feel politics is required if we are to get ahead in our career. Quite a number, no? But, then there are others who think of raajneeti at work as nothing more than ego clashes that take ugly turns if people involved don’t realise when to stop spilling mud on each other, whether in the dark or out in the open. While sometimes you may find yourself inadvertently sucked into it, you may also witness people making the most of this dirty game for personal benefits. The matter of fact is: there is no denying that you will come across people who are manipulative, pick fights or argue and play blame games either in secret or otherwise. But, there are ways to stay afloat and still be able to create a positive work environment. Remember to keep practicing the following and sail in the storm, tension-free.
Get to know your colleagues
You cannot pretend you are mute and deaf at work because you don’t want to get your hands dirty. Office politics is possible because there are people at work who take advantage of relationships. This is not to say you should forge bonds with colleagues at all levels to be up-to-date, but in order to establish a personal rapport with them so that both you and your colleagues get to know what either is capable of. Make a conscious effort to talk to your peers, superiors and thos who you may not work directly with, but may in the future? If someone in the name of politics badmouths about you or your colleagues, will it stand true when everyone in the office knows it cannot be true?
Often people assume that information is being hidden and start talking in hushed voices. In order to avoid politics from kicking in or rubbishing news doing rounds because of alleged mistrust among stakeholders, hold a meeting. Let people know there is no room for misunderstandings and that transparency is what you look forward too. Encourage people to put forth their points of view rather than hearing whispers. People should be able to debate like adults and resolve differences rather than taking it as a personal vendetta. You will come to realise that mature people will disagree and still be able to respect each other’s opinion.
Watch your behaviour and attitude
Keep miles away from gossip mongers for their only job is to volley rumours from one corner to another. They instigate people to spill beans and put them in trouble. If you hear someone pass judgements, walk away and make it clear that you will not be a party to it. Your stance proves you will do nothing that questions your integrity and values. Above all, know who you can confide in at work, if you do. Should you feel the need to vent be cautious so as not to talk in front of those who will merely take advantage of the situation and make it worse for you. The only person who should have your back is you.
Deal with credit stealers
Let’s not mince words here. If you put in all the hard work and see someone play a ‘It was me’ card, then the only thing worth doing is standing up to that person. This is not to say you should wage a war and get personal, but to let them know that you may have been quiet about it, but not blind enough to see what’s happening. If you don’t want to confront then speak to your boss about it and separate fact from fiction for clarity. No one should get away stealing credit vis-à-vis petty politics.
If you think a colleague is acting smart and thinks he/she has a trump card, be prepared with yours. Document every conversation you have with them over email so that there’s proof about what is going behind the scene and if the matter comes back to haunt you, you can highlight the issues. Not just woes, but accomplishments too should be documented so that if you undergo performance review, you have record of work well done.
If you are at a leadership position then you should ensure that you are rewarding talent despite the organization being covered in thick fog of politics. Let employees know that hard work will never go for a waste and that every work performance is under the scanner and ill-doers won’t be able to escape without being first penalized. Keep tracking their work and interpersonal relationship so that small problems don’t snowball into fire, later. Also, debug the office environment of toxic politics from time-to-time. Make room in the calendar for team offsites as it helps break the ice and get people to know each other outside office.
Open door policy?
Let people know that they can raise concerns, should they have any. And, if your office encourage you to make the most of it then flag concerns that you think require intervention. After all there is no point in holding melting candle in your hand when you can ask for a holder?
Have you ever been dragged into office politics? How did you navigate your way out and around?