5 September, 2018
Ask a Career Coach: How to Deal with Office Politics
Ask a Career Coach: How to Deal with Office Politics

Ask a Career Coach: How to Deal with Office Politics

5 September, 2018
Ask a Career Coach: How to Deal with Office Politics

Struggling with office politics? Millennial Leadership Coach, Fyiona Yong is here to give us some tips on how to deal.

I have some bad news: Office politics is not something you can choose to stay away from. You are in it – whether you like it or not. But the good news is that if you choose to understand and engage in it, office politics can be handled ethically and even create meaningful relationships. In fact, when you learn to play the game effectively, you can be a change agent in your organisation.

What’s most challenging is that people don’t get the “rules of the game” and there seems to be secrecy about office politics. People see office politics most often as a form of gossip or rumor spreading. But it’s much more than that.

I have been very fortunate that my previous line manager is well aware of the politics and ensured that his team members are aware of them too. Trusted leaders seek balanced solutions and help their teams to navigate the tension between the competing needs of the wider organisation and the individual. It’s all about effectiveness and achieving a shared vision together.

He taught me some valuable insights on how to navigate office politics which I want to share with you:

  • Be on the radar. If you are not visible and nobody knows who you are, you won’t have any impact in the organisation. You want to be on people’s radar for the right reasons. Consider taking on tasks outside of your comfort zone and identify opportunities to interact with colleagues and other divisions you haven’t worked with before. You can volunteer for events, such as team building activities, events or join an employee resource group like the women’s network.
  • Be a person of influence. When people know and respect you due to your credibility, you will be more influential. Displaying a positive attitude is vital and you should avoid too much complaining and passive aggressive behavior. Offer support to those around you and be aware of what is going on around you. Who requires help? Who is going an extra mile and delivers beyond their job description? Who is an unsung hero? Be a mentor or coach to younger or new employees without having formal authority. 
  • Everyone is a volunteer. Treat your colleagues and stakeholder as if they are volunteers. Make sure that you treat everyone with respect, so that they prioritise you if you ever need their support. Always be mindful that others may also have more urgent tasks to work on. If you ask someone for a favour, make sure you give them an opportunity to say no without taking it personally. And remember to reciprocate. Giving first before receiving should be something you practice. 
  • Create meaningful connections. Develop relationships both horizontally and vertically in your organisation. Get to know your peers who work in a different division instead of just staying within your silo. Know and respect the people from top to bottom in your organisation, as well as your internal and external customers. These relationships will improve the likelihood of you learning things informally: the unwritten rules. Creating a bigger circle of trust will not only increase your influence but also enable cross-departmental learning benefiting the wider organisation.
  • Sharing is Caring. Gain knowledge, but also be willing to share knowledge. Share it with colleagues and stakeholders who might find it valuable for their jobs. This will improve the value of your relationships. Of course not everything can be shared: Things like upcoming reorganisations that involve layoffs, promotions, transfers etc. must never be shared until it is time. And no! Gossip does not count as sharing.
  • Give credit. If someone has done an amazing job, whether it’s organising the Christmas team dinner or leading a project successfully, give credit and recognise the individual for a job well done. You don’t have to be the line manager to give praise. Feedback from peers can be extremely uplifting. Generously recognising a job well done is highly motivating and especially appreciated when it comes genuinely. 
  • Managing difficult conversations. No doubt, there will be tension and conflict between individuals and different divisions. Be the glue that holds the team together and act as a mediator. Always consider what is best for the overall team success and to achieve the shared vision. When you are having a disagreement with a colleagues, know when to push back and when it’s best to let things go. Not every battle is worth fighting for and when you win a battle you sometimes lose the war/relationship. When you must address a conflict, understand the other’s point of you before you explain yours and try to identify a win-win solution. What’s most important is to never make it personal and rather focus on the issues. 

Should you play politics or not?

The truth is, even if you hate it, you really can’t avoid it – there will always be politics in an office. Most people say, ‘Why should I play? I work hard and my boss should see how hard I’m working and I should be promoted based on that.’

All office cultures aren’t the same, and of course what’s most integral is to be focused on your career, not constantly managing politics. If your office is all about the gossip, you might consider embarking on a different path. We can’t change the leadership or the corporate culture, so you have to ask yourself if the job is worth subjecting yourself to this toxic environment every single day.

Challenges and inequities exist, however you can choose your approach that can help you get ahead. Office politics doesn’t always have to be negative, in fact it can actually be a positive business strategy. Ultimately it’s about being great at building relationships and creating your reputation and personal brand.

Featured image via Getty.

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