When Sheena took up her first job at a Fortune 500 company, she was fresh out of school and very new to the corporate culture. She was friendly and happy that many of her colleagues reciprocated her warmth. Presuming it to be a great workplace she candidly mixed up and even discussed her new ideas with her colleagues.
To her horror, one of her colleagues whom she considered her good friend and confidante, promptly and unethically passed Sheena’s idea as her own, and not only stole all the praise for the bright idea, she also snatched the project from under Sheena’s nose. Welcome to the strange world of Office Politics.
As competition peaks at the workplace, so do office politics. Unethical practices like stealing others’ ideas and credits, backbiting to put a colleague at a disadvantage, bullying to make their life miserable and plain ignoring, become the order of the day. Patrick Frosyth, author of Detox Your Career, writes, “The office where politics do not exist does not exist.” Having said that, it doesn’t mean you allow the office politics situation to overwhelm you. Here are five tested strategies to navigate this maze that will help you survive and shine in a toxic political workplace.
How To Handle Office Politics
1) Do Not Quit:
Negotiating office politics and surviving in a workplace reeking with snoops and bullies can be stressful and leave you with a bitter experience for life that might have you contemplating even quitting your job. Considering that the political game is a part of every office set-up, you can expect to encounter similar situations in varying degrees at every workplace, so quitting your job isn’t a viable solution. But sticking it out might take its toll on you. So find ways to defuse the situation. You could try two things :-
- First, bury yourself in work and ignore what goes on. This will help you rise above their taunts and the office politics
- Second, you may document their abuse and file a complaint with your seniors.
But if you’re worried about being dragged into unnecessary controversy, don’t take sides and decline from commenting when your opinion is sought.
2) Find The Reason:
There are a range of politics that go on at office. What is it that is disturbing you ?. Are you being disliked or shunned ?. Most of the time, job insecurity makes colleagues behave in suspicious ways. If someone feels that you’re better skilled than they or have a greater chance of promotion, they try and pull you down. Another reason for envy is your rapport with your boss.
This makes colleagues insecure of their own positions in the organisation as they see you more eligible for all the advantages they are competing for. Some might try to be overtly friendly to please you and in turn, the boss, while others might be out to get you.
In the case of job insecurities like these, experts advise having a candid conversation and sorting things out. Over a cup of coffee, ask the person what is troubling them or what is the problem they have with you. Chances are that they will tell you but if they don’t, get someone to intervene because a negative environment isn’t only depressing it also slows down progress. If you help them grow their potentials so that they too feel equally deserving for whatever’s at stake, the problem can be sorted out.
3) Recognise the politician:
Most often, you don’t recognise the person who is playing dirty games, like in Sheena’s case. To avoid the horror of backstabbing, be alert. Don’t be too trusting and never let anyone in on your ideas and project details. Beware of getting blown away by sweet talk and restrict your conversation at social gatherings. If you’re working as a team, from the very outset, clearly define your areas of work and don’t intrude or allow others to intervene. Lock secret documents and private data securely in folders. Take behavioral cues these politicians offer. If someone is too nosy and keeps peeking over your desk, be alert. When you’re on the phone, is anyone overhearing your conversation? Such cues point to the suspected person. Be careful! Always inform your seniors of your idea so that they are aware that it belongs to you, and if it is stolen, you have an evidence.
4) Don’t Believe What You Hear:
Remarks carried by colleagues who pose as well-wishers, could well be manipulated and designed to upset you. Always confront the speaker in the presence of the bearer. This will clear the doubts if you are being misled. In case the remark is genuine, find out why the person has made it. Sometimes, you might have unknowingly harmed someone or hurt them. Get to the root of the problem before it blows out of all proportion. It’s important to understand that you’re interacting with human beings who have different perspectives. Care to consider their outlooks if you’re working as a team because your boss wants the project completed and it requires teamwork. Give others a chance to explain their ideas and find ways to incorporate as much as possible. By being accommodating, you could downsize the person out to get you.
5) Use It To Your Advantage:
In today’s work culture, if you have the ability to handle office politics, it’s considered an asset. Instead of whining and complaining to your managers, show off your skill as a competent problem-solver and try to solve the problem yourself. Talk it over or e-mail the person concerned asking to sort things out. It could be a good idea to try defusing the bomb at social parties when the atmosphere is more informal and relaxed. Approach the person with a clear mind and be open to his or her outlook. According to Rolin Koval, co-author of The Power of Nice, “Being nice can be the most effective tool for success when dealing with office politics which is used with the objective of gaining advantage in the work environment.” If the other person is convinced you’re not trying to run them down, the chances are that they will also see sense in coming to a solution because even the politicians don’t always enjoy this role.
Dealing With Office Politics : 6 Effective Office Politics Tips
- Better to stay silent rather then blow up and regret later
- Don’t Take Sides
- Irrespective of Office Politics, Be Helpful But Stay Away From Gossip
- Don’t Get Personal. It’s Ok Not To Like Everybody In The World
- Seek To Understand, Before Being Understood
- Try To Formulate a WIN-WIN Situation