When office politics get out of hand, it can create a toxic work environment. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ll break down how to deal with office politics professionally, no matter what kind of politics are in your workplace.
What are ‘Office Politics’?
Merriam-Webster defines Office Politics as: the activities, attitudes, or behaviors that are used to get or keep power or an advantage within a business or company. Basically, each person in the office will be liked or disliked by other people, and those positive and negative relationships with other employees create a political culture.
Think about it. Have you ever complained to a coworker at work? Maybe you were complaining about another coworker who wasn’t doing their job. Or maybe you had a question, but you specifically avoided asking someone that you thought didn’t like you. All of these are examples of the kind of office politics that are present in every workplace.
Are Office Politics Bad?
Frankly, the word ‘Office Politics’ sounds like a bad thing. If someone came up to you and said how much they love playing office politics, it probably wouldn’t make a great first impression.
But the fact of the matter is that office politics are an inevitable by-product of social interaction, and they don’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.
Can they be a bad thing? Absolutely. That’s why you want to make sure you’re thoughtful about how you respond to office politics.
How to Deal with Office Politics: 4 Tips
So how do you deal with office politics? Ramit recently interviewed a friend of his, Kevin Hillstrom, about how he’s dealt with office politics in the past. Kevin is a successful CEO now, but when he was an analyst at Land’s End, he struggled with office politics.
Don’t be Naive
Most people think the best way to deal with office politics is to avoid them completely. While this sounds great, it’s really hard to do in practice. After Kevin experienced his first meeting with all the executives, he realized naivety about office politics is a poor strategy. Instead, acknowledge the game being played around you. When you recognize the situation, you can choose to act in a way that protects your integrity and keeps you out of political traps.
Learn to read the room
Some people have a hard time noticing political dynamics. In the video, you can see that Kevin Hillstrom is one of them. When he was giving an important presentation to a group of executives, he didn’t pay attention to the political dynamics between the executives, which had a huge impact on how they perceived Kevin’s presentation.
Think about it. If I’m a top exec, and I really don’t like Jim from Sales, and Kevin’s presentation really appeals to Jim from Sales, I’m much less inclined to be persuaded. But if Kevin had read the room, he could have appealed to each executive and persuaded all of them.
Observe what other successful people do
While Kevin was working at Land’s End, he overheard his boss talking about how he had no business skills. Obviously this comment stung, but Kevin used it as a wake up call to improve himself.
One of the first things he did? He started paying attention to what successful people in the office did. He mentioned that one of his bosses was able to build a reputation of always having the facts and information to make good decisions, and people above her noticed that and paid attention to her. Instead of just copying her, Kevin then used that to try to build his own reputation based on how he viewed the world.
Building a reputation is political. But it’s not a bad thing. This is one example of how you can use office politics to further your career without creating a toxic work environment.
Work on your communication skills
Whether your office is full of politics or not, working on your communication skills is ALWAYS helpful. By being a better communicator, you can avoid the kind of misunderstandings that fuel office drama. You can also build a good reputation for yourself by communicating clearly. Communication was a big area of weakness for Kevin, so he took an 8 week long course to learn how to persuade people.
You probably don’t need to go to that extreme, but improving his communication skills helped Kevin get promoted, and eventually lead his own company.
If you want to get ahead in your career and learn how to effectively navigate office politics, check out my free Ultimate Guide to Social Skills below. I’ll show you how to communicate effortlessly, make a great first impression, and read other people in the room. Just enter your email below.
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