A guide to dealing with 'office politics'.
Written by: Mrunal Kale
Like it or not, office politics is a part of the culture of most organizations across the world. We are stating this as a fact because all organizations run on the “human” factor and as humans, we tend to bring our emotions and perspectives with us to our work.
All of us aspire to thrive but none of us have the same approach towards it, hence the difference of opinion eventually leads to the very dreaded “office politics”. Let’s look at some of the ways in which you can deal with it without losing your mind.
#1: Accept and Absorb
You will have difficulty surviving it if you are in some “perfect workplace” delusion.
The bad news: there is going to be some level of politics always surrounding you at the workplace. It might change (for good) over time but, it always going to be present in some form or the other.
This quick acceptance will help you look past it and give you peace of mind.
The good news: it is plausible to climb up the ladder of success without getting sucked up into it. If looked at it objectively, “good” politics helps you promote your and your team’s work and being aware of the “bad” politics keeps you on your toes.
#2: Observe & Analyze
At times, it's good to sit back and observe people, their issues and the organization's structure. This will help you map everyone's influence and you can decode your own combat against it.
Try to understand the informal circle that is mainly running it. After understanding the situation, you can take a call on how you want to deal with it as per your organizational capacity and belief system. During this process, remember not to get involved or take sides or give statements that might affect you or your integrity later. The whole point is to keep your head in your work and be aware of how things are around you.
Even if you get to know something about someone from somewhere, be the bigger person and don’t spread it until absolutely necessary. Be neutral and know that you always have a choice.
#3: Document Your Work
Office politics really affects you the most when you are a newcomer (in most cases). You are not aware of the work culture, and hence knowingly or unknowingly, you get sucked into the unpleasant.
They say, “your work should speak for you”, but there is absolutely no harm in keeping a record of it. We suggest keeping both an online & an offline record of what work you have been doing, with focus on tasks that you have finished and tasks that are expected of you.
For example, post any discussion, with your colleague or senior, mark him or her an email about the points of discussion and action points for each of you with the due date. Update the same in your personal to-do list and before you start every day, prioritize what needs to be done first. Another example can be acknowledging all emails within 24 hours of receiving. This will keep the recipient assured that you are working on it and you will be aware that this task needs to be completed. This documentation will always serve as a fair record of your work and will be useful when you need to track your progress or if you are required to present it to someone.
There is nothing wrong with taking credit for the work you do. And by doing this, if any fingers are pointed at you at any point in time, you will always have a record of things that matter the most- your work.
#4: It’s NOT You
Having said all of the above, I get that it is really difficult to work in a place that is constantly challenging (politically).
I speak from a place of experience when I say this and believe me, it’s NOT you, it’s the position you are working for. Everything that is going on and around is not for you as a person but for the “designated position” you are in. Most people say and do things to you because of it.
When you differentiate yourself from your position, it gets really easy and sorted. There will be times when you will lose your confidence or you want to shout out loud, but don’t. Just remember to keep it strictly professional in terms of your reactions and just stick to your job. It will be infuriating but you will see, it comes with a reward.
Don’t doubt your skill or abilities, it is all a lesson and you will be fine. Work because you want to work and learn for own self and not just for the organization. Hold your head up high and go back in there!
#5: Build Connections
Today’s work life can be easily defined as a jungle safari and if there is one thing that is really under your control, it is your workgroup.
Genuine work connections are such a bliss in an atmosphere that is dynamic and exhausting every day. Whatever keeps happening at your work desk, you can always lighten up with your friends at work. You can dump your anguish, learn a thing or two from them or simply hang with them and go back there and kill it!
Some of the best and life long friendships were made out of the workplace. Only little thing to remember before you jump into all of it is to really take it slow. Don’t share too much too soon until you get to know the people really well. Take your time and build genuine connections that help in the hour of need.
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