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tackling office politics head on

man avoiding office politics

Try as we might, we cannot avoid office politics. At some point we’ll find ourselves in situations where we are in the midst of some inner politics, whether that be in a working conflict, being gossiped about or being asked to join an internal network. We can’t hide from working politics and so it’s important to understand how we can tackle them head on so that we’re always in control of the situations we find ourselves in, ensuring the resulting outcomes benefit our career prospects in the process.

Within any office, you can look around and start to identify where office politics may life? Perhaps your colleagues are vying for the same senior position and are building their internal networks to help their cause. All of a sudden, both are treating you extremely well, as they would like you within their network. Another instance might be where there is some ‘water cooler’ talk that you walk in on and all of a sudden, you’re swept within some office gossip that you weren’t looking to be involved in. How do you respond positively to these scenarios?

tackling office politics

play the listening game

Take a step back, ‘zip-it’ and open your ears… it’s time to listen. In order to avoid having your words misconstrued, you need to stop talking to your peers and first listen to identify the individual characters within your office. Once you’ve identified who is who, you can work out who likes to gossip and tailor your how you deal with certain people within the office.

Listening also allows you to stay informed, and whilst you’ll be ‘in-the-loop’ with all the office gossip, you can take a mindful approach when reacting or using the information you have acquired. After all, it’s important that you understand what information needs your involvement and what doesn’t. Most of the time it won’t, but if you do react, you need to make sure that you’re not coming across as a ‘busy-body’ or someone who cannot be trusted with the information as this will negatively impact your internal relationships, trust towards you and your career prospects within the office.

Listening also helps you to determine who you can, should and need to build working relationships with and that’s extremely important. The best leaders within our organisations are the ones who listen, are mindful and have built the best connections within the company. It often all stems from taking the time to step back, listen and observe those around us.

be clear about who you are

Where possible and applicable, show your colleagues that you’re transparent, honest and have values. Take the opportunity to say this is who I am and these are my values; this allows others around you to know what to expect from you, and if that’s someone who isn’t interested in office gossip then so be it.

You’ll also find that by being open in this way you’ll attract like-minded colleagues into your internal network and deter those that do not reflect or relate to what you believe in. This will make your office environment a more positive place to be in, along with helping you to avoid office politics. Day-to-day conversations will become more relative to your personality and interests, rather than gossiping about others within the office.

Keeping conversations productive

Talking negatively can stem from unhappy and demotivated team members or working environments. Avoid this at all costs! Keep a positive mindset that allows you to look at situations objectively and look for positive results. By having a positive outlook on both life and your work, you’re again more likely to attract the right kind of internal network. Their positive mindset will rub off on you. This helps you to be positive about day-to-day conversations within the office and again, inspire discussions over things that interest you, rather than talking about others.

focusing on your work helps avoid office politics

Don’t worry about what others are doing; focus on your own work. Too many of us can become overly concerned about what’s happening around us than our own performance. This will always have a negative impact on ourselves and our company because we become counter-productive. The best way to counteract this is to find ways to focus on our work. Kan Ban boards, to-do lists and self-performance reviews can help us to maintain focus on our own performance. Use these techniques to avoid getting wound up in the politics of talking about our colleagues work.

*TIP* – at the end of every day, write down three things you have done well. This helps you to do the following two things:

  1. Creates a positive frame of mind when tackling tasks.
  2. Envisage the progress that you’re making on your work and the benefit that this has to the wider business.

You’re there to do your job and not worry about whether someone is doing their job better than you.

stay on top of your behaviour

Monitoring your behaviour can help you to avoid office politics; ask yourself – are you creating questionable conversations, challenges and problems for your colleagues? Are you spreading gossip internally? If the answers to these questions are yes, then you need to audit your office performance. How can you change your actions in order to change perceptions of your personality and positively affect your office? Need help? Start from the top of this article again…

To conclude, taking office politics and making them work in your favour is another task that takes work. Suffer the short-term pains to make the long-term gains. This way you’ll establish a better reputation within the office, whilst propelling your career forward by doing the aforementioned actions.