While the term workplace politics is surrounded by endless negative connotations it isn’t all bad. Our navigating office politics training course will help you to recognise the differences between good and bad politics as well as the best and worst ways to exert power and influence. Knowing the skills and techniques to deal with certain behaviours and situations will help you to handle workplace politics appropriately without getting involved in any of the negative tactics associated with bad workplace politics.
On the other hand, good workplace politics will help you to endorse yourself in a fair and honest way. Good work politics are more frequently associated with networking, effective leadership skills and stakeholder management.
What is office politics?
If you’ve ever felt like everyone at work is talking about you, or like there are certain things you’re supposed to do to get a promotion, then you’ve been exposed to workplace politics. Workplace politics refer to the way people use power and social networking for professional gain. It’s something that happens at all workplaces, because people are naturally competitive and we all want our work to be noticed by colleagues and superiors.
10 tips to navigate office politics:
1. Get to know the people
In the work place some people have more authority and influence than others, usually based on where they sit in the hierarchy of the company. However, Workplace politics will often go beyond the official organisation chart. Understanding and accepting this is imperative in making workplace politics work for you. You’ll need to be observant and appreciate the informal network. Who gets along with who and who has conflict with who?
2. Build relationships that mean something
Build relationships with people but avoid forcing fake friendships, empty flattery and negative politicking. Make sure the relationships you build are with people at all levels within the company and are based on trust and respect.
3. Be careful how you use your power or influence
If you are someone in the business who holds power know when and how to use it. There are times when it will be necessary for you to exercise your authority but you must be careful how you do so. If you are seen to be someone who loses their temper easily you are likely to lose a great deal of respect. Keep your cool, focus on the situation and don’t get personal. Keep calm and carry on.
Another important note – using your power might not always be the best action for you to take. Learn when to take a step back, don’t be seen as someone who is overpowering, this will only leave others feeling like their thoughts and opinions don’t matter because you will only override them anyway.
4. Steer clear of gossip
Don’t get involved in gossip, if you have been told things in confidence keep them to yourself and don’t lose trust. Avoid talking about issues within the company and definitely don’t talk negatively about your boss. In reality, these things only make you look bad. Sure, there might be things you don’t like about the company you work for, there might be things you don’t like about your boss, but there is an appropriate time and a place to bring these matters up.
When the time is right for you to voice criticism make sure you do so in a professional manner and from the perspective of the organisation, not from a personal perspective. Try to take a positive outlook and suggest solutions rather than just whining and complaining for the sake of it.
5. Encourage team work
If you are a manager, consider whether you are actually encouraging teamwork or are you unintentionally setting your team members up to work against each other. Too much competition between team members can create animosity and conflict. Encourage your team to work collaboratively to reach shared goals as well as their individual ones and they are much more likely to get along than to get caught up in unhealthy rivalry. We have training courses which can help you with effective team building.
6. Keep the peace
One of the best ways to stay out of negative workplace politics is to avoid conflict. Keeping the peace doesn’t have to mean sucking up to everyone or being a push over but always be pleasant and professional. You can still get your point across and be assertive whilst staying agreeable. If you are unable to satisfy someone’s request, make sure that you give a clear and reasonable explanation as to why and try to provide them with an alternative contact or solution.
7. Don’t choose sides
If there is a conflict in the office it is important that you try to avoid picking a side. Choosing one side or the other is likely to make things difficult for you if you need to work with people from the other side and could hinder your productivity and performance. Instead, try to work with both sides and avoid talk about the issue that divides them.
8. Get things in writing
It is often a good idea to get things in writing, especially if you believe someone could change their mind on a matter that you have agreed to. It might be that the matter is more important to you than it is to them and they are likely to forget, if this is the case, finish your conversation with a request for them to put it in an email for you. This way you will have a record to refer back to and avoid any confusion.
9. Lead by example
This is an especially important point if you are in a position of authority. Discourage negative office politics within your team through effective leadership skills. Lead by example, maintain your integrity and others should follow suit.
10. Know who you are working with
As much as you try to avoid negative workplace politics sometimes you just can’t help but cross paths with an ‘workplace politician’. If this is the case it helps to know who you are working with. Below we’ve outlined the 8 types of workplace politician to look out for and how to deal with each of them.
8 Types of workplace politicians:
This is the person who knows all the ins and outs of the workplace, who’s dating who, who’s got problems at home and who’s had a falling out with their boss.
They know it all, and they get a buzz off spilling secrets. Be careful when revealing confidential or personal information around them because it probably won’t stay confidential for long. Try to keep conversation related to business when dealing with a Gossip. If conversation does start to stray away from work don’t believe every word they say and definitely don’t get sucked into spreading any rumours they might share with you. When conversation starts to drift in the wrong direction quickly but subtly try to bring conversation back to safe ground.
This person is ambitious and determined, they want to see their career progress, but their ideas of moving on up could come at a cost. The Climber is so absorbed on advancement that they will run over anything and anyone in the way. A Climber tends to focus only on themselves rather than the team. They will often take full credit for a group effort or even others people’s work. To avoid this happening to you, don’t be afraid to share what you’re working on in front of your team so that it’s transparent who’s working on what and credit comes back where credit is due. If you’re in a managerial role keep an eye out for team members who talk about “I, me and mine” rather than “we, us and ours.” If you think one of your team members could be trying to take credit from others, make sure you ask all of your team for frequent updates so that you’re clear on who’s really doing what.
The Yes Man:
This person will pretty much always say yes. They’ll agree to any task even if they don’t have the time to fit it into their schedule, even if they don’t have the right resources to complete it and even if it’s not necessarily the right thing to do. Be wary of a Yes Man because they might not be as reliable as they seem on the surface. A Yes Man will often struggle to prioritise their workload because they’re trying to cater for everything their boss wants.
This person never seems to be happy. A Grumbler is always whining about something, complaining and moaning but never bringing any solutions to the table. A Grumbler is usually averse to change; they will often talk about how things were in the past and how things are not done ‘like we used to do it”. Be careful not to be dragged into a negative way of thinking if you’re working with a Grumbler. Make sure you keep a positive attitude and where appropriate encourage them to look on the bright side too. If you’re managing a Grumbler encourage them to come up with a feasible solution to each of the things they moan about. If they have to do this every time they might soon reconsider what’s worth moaning about.
This is not someone you want to get involved with in the workplace. Unfortunately, with a backstabber you probably won’t know you’re dealing with one until it is too late. A backstabber is like The Climber in that they are ambitious and want to progress their career, also similar in the way that it doesn’t matter what this costs. The difference being, a Backstabber will go one step further than taking credit for your work, they will also throw you under a bus too. A backstabber is unlikely to take responsibility for their mistakes and will pass the blame wherever they can. If you do end up in this situation make sure you stand up for yourself and confidently refute false claims.
The Taker is someone who asks for help, advice, favours and ideas. All fine, but when they are reluctant to reciprocate this can be rather annoying. They’ll ask a lot of questions and take up a lot of your time. If a Taker says that they’re too busy to help you out, ask them if you can put some time in the diary for a later date. Time in the diary should mean that they can’t really use the “too busy” excuse. It might be annoying but don’t give up, keep chasing them for what you need and don’t let yourself feel like a burden. You’ve helped them out so it’s only fair they return the favour.
The Box Ticker:
The box ticker is someone who will do the bare minimum. They’ll get the box ticked and the job done but they won’t go any further than that. While not necessarily harmful, they’re not likely to use their initiative and go a step further no matter how beneficial it might be for themselves, the team or the business. If it’s not with in their remit, it’s probably not going to get done. If you’re managing a box ticker, try to encourage them to see the benefit in going the extra mile. It might be worth putting rewards or incentives in place for work which isn’t necessarily on their to do list.
Micromanaging is bad managing, it will leave staff feeling incompetent, it will stifle opportunity to grow and quash innovation. A micromanager will delegate work to employees and check up on them every step of the way, to the point where it’s counterproductive. If staff are spending so much time reporting on their progress they are not getting as much done as they could do. A micromanager will rarely be satisfied with deliverables because they would have completed the task in a different way. One way to cope with being micromanaged is to provide your boss with the information required before you’re asked. Take it upon yourself to communicate your own progress and accomplishments to avoid being pestered for information just because you haven’t been asked in a while. If you are micromanaging, it’s time to reconsider your management style. Working Voices leadership skills training courses can help you to develop your management skills in a much more effective way.