According to the great Greek philosopher Aristotle, “man is by nature a political animal.” We are social creatures, after all—ones who possess the power of speech and moral reasoning, making us naturally drawn to cultivating political associations.
Unfortunately, the word “politics” and politicking itself have gained something of a negative connotation, especially in the workplace. It denotes a behaviour of trying getting ahead, not on one’s own merits but by using a strategy involving office politics, which, on its own, doesn’t sound very good nor honourable. Instead of allowing one’s work to speak for itself, those who play office politic games make use of self-serving actions and interpersonal relationships in the workplace to advance themselves and improve their status in the organisation.
Though politics exist in every company, most people tend to shy away from participating in it. Many employees believe that ignoring it altogether is a safer move. Indeed, it can keep them from stepping on anyone’s toes or making any mistakes that could come back to bite them later on in their career.
However, leaders—or those who want to become leaders in their respective organisations—may come to find that engaging in office politics can prove remarkably useful. The catch is that it should be done meaningfully and with purpose. Purpose that is for the benefit of others. Equip yourself with the right people management skills and learn how to navigate the murky waters of your office’s politics by reading on below:
Participating in Office Politics: The Pros and Cons
You can expect the presence of politics anywhere interpersonal relationships can be made—even in a purpose-driven business. Before you decide to ignore it completely, though, it’s worth knowing how utilising the systems in place wisely can benefit your career. At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the potential pitfalls.
If you’re looking to get promoted, for example, participating in office politics may be unavoidable. In this case, the quality of your work alone may not be enough to make you stand out from the rest of the candidates for the position. You’ll have to show your managers that you can interact with and successfully lead a variety of people and personalities.
Playing the game, so to speak, is also necessary when you want others to align themselves with you and your goals. When people trust and believe in you, you’ll be able to get things done more efficiently.
Finally, one of the biggest advantages of taking part in office politics is the wealth of networking opportunities it can provide you. You’ll be able to meet many more people when you put yourself out there—people who can support you in achieving your goals, help you navigate the office environment and become a valuable part of your community and network.
On the flip side, though, engaging in office politics can be messy, especially if it isn’t done correctly. It can be incredibly stressful, for one. Introverted employees (or those who find it challenging to be more open with their colleagues) will have to push themselves outside of their comfort zones in order to navigate office politics successfully.
Individuals who use politics to undercut or manipulate others and further their personal agendas can also cause rifts within teams. Finally, an overly politically-driven workplace environment can be extremely demotivating and cause workers to lose interest in their jobs. When management only gives attention to the ones who can socialise with them the best, there’s not much point in turning in one’s best work.
Playing to Win: How to Succeed in Office Politics
A surprising number of people think that the key to winning at office politics is to be sneaky and underhanded. On the contrary, you don’t have to exploit others to get ahead in the workplace. That’s right—you can interact with others to earn their trust and cultivate influence around you without sacrificing your integrity.
Maintain Your Neutrality
Sometimes, when people take sides workplaces can feel no different from your average schoolyard. Should you find yourself in a situation where you are made to choose one, it may be more beneficial to deflect and remain impartial. Change the subject gently and avoid taking the bait; you may find that there are more choices available than just one or the other.
Focus on the Outcome
When you have a truly excellent idea, it’s natural to also want to take sole credit for it. However, taking the spotlight can be a hindrance to seeing that idea adopted by others. In cases like these, it is always more beneficial to take a step back and make it not only about you. Encouraging a more collaborative environment and partnering up with a colleague can help fast-track your brainchild into becoming a reality.
Don’t Stand for Underhanded Actions
One of the hardest things to do in a setting that can be as competitive as a workplace is to call out unfairness and underhandedness. However, if the situation is fraught enough, you’ll find that most members of senior management will want to nip any childish nonsense in the bud. So one should call out wrongdoing where you see it. The trick is to not make it personal by focusing on the issues and not allowing your emotions to get in the way.
Knowing how to navigate office politics is just another skill you should definitely add to your arsenal, especially if you want to be in a leadership position. The idea is to utilise unspoken rules that already exist for the greater good, instead of causing harm to others.
If you want to know more about the office politics and how you should be as a leader, then get in touch with Justin Maree Cox today.