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Surviving Workplace Politics

Most organizations have some degree of office politics. In fact, some offices resemble an episode of Survivor where you need to determine who you’ll trust, who you won’t, and who you’ll form alliances with. As Aristotle said, “man is by nature a political animal.”

Why do people create politics? In short to gain power and influence over others to further their own interests, often at the expense of other people. People engage in politics to compete for recognition, promotions, pay raises, and/or to ensure that their jobs are secure.

Here are some “politicians” that you might come across in the workplace.

  • The Gossiper - Loves to talk about others which can cause hurt feelings and damage to relationships.

  • The Bully - Exhibits harmful, targeted behavior towards others.

  • The Climber - Uses the people around them to gain status and power.

  • The Brown Noser - Sucks up to the boss and other leaders for purposes of career advancement.

  • The Grumbler - Constantly whines and complains about things without bringing solutions to the table.

  • The Back Stabber - Steals recognition or praise for another person’s work, passing it off as their own. Also, won’t hesitate to throw others under the bus to make themselves look good.

  • The Saboteur - Sabotages the work of others and/or withholds information for personal gain.

Workplace politics can be difficult to navigate but below are seven suggested strategies that can help!

  1. Realize that you can make a difference. Show courtesy, respect, politeness, and office etiquette. Demonstrate empathy, respect, and kindness which may encourage others to reciprocate.

  2. Build positive work relationships. Develop strong positive relationships with other team members. This will provide a support network when you run into challenging situations.

  3. Speak up for yourself and others. Be brave and know when to speak up for yourself and others. Have difficult conversations and address situations when needed focusing on the behavior and not the person.

  4. Know and stick to your values. Define your values (what you personally believe is right) and stick to them. If politics in your organization results in the need to compromise your values, it is probably time to consider a career change.

  5. Take the high road. When coworkers try to make you look bad or undermine you, it’s tempting to do the same. Don’t succumb to this temptation and lower yourself to their level.

  6. Take a look at yourself. Examine yourself first before you judge or give a critique of another individual. Think about your behavior and how it might be contributing to politics in your organization and make adjustment as needed.

  7. Help in resolving conflict. Assist in resolving conflicts where you can. But be sure not to triangulate and make things worse. If you are a leader, have the courage to do what you can to address situations to minimize politics in your area of responsibility.

Office politics are an inescapable part of any work environment but it is possible to navigate them using some of the strategies above. If you act as a role model, your behavior can motivate others to change, and you can be a light in your workplace.

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