Have you ever noticed how some mediocre employees rise in ranks while competent ones get left behind? Often, it is because they know how to play office politics. Most freshers would like to think they can succeed purely based on their capabilities, which you can in some cases, but in most cases, you need to know how to play the game. These are 5 ways to deal with office politics without selling your soul:
Like most things in life, prevention is better than cure even when it comes to office politics. Once you fall into the vicious circle of politics, it is hard to get out of it. But if you play positive politics, your co-workers and bosses will probably focus any stabbing instincts elsewhere. A few positive politics strategies are:
Ask Your Superiors for Counsel Periodically:
This makes them think of you are their protégé and increases the chances of them defending you when you need it.
Perform Acts of Kindness:
Stay up late sometimes to help your coworkers, make a coworker feel special on their birthday by getting them a card.
Do Important, Visible Tasks:
Make sure everyone knows what work you’ve done. Try to get assigned to tasks that are of high importance. This can be done by emailing your projects to related employees for ‘feedback’ thus making sure that nobody tries to steal credit for your work.
Keep Your Antenna Up
Sometimes, even after playing positive politics, someone will want to make you look bad – this might be out of jealousy, or competition for the same promotion. You can’t counter his schemes unless you know who the culprit is, here are a few ways to find out:
- Are you being kept out of the information loop? Who is responsible for it?
- At important meetings, does the same person always disagree with you, if not out loud, then by rolling their eyes, sighing or not paying attention when you’re speaking?
- When you ask for any help or feedback, do you feel that it annoys him?
- When you talk one-to-one with the suspected culprit, does he always seem to want to cut the conversation short?
Get a good idea about where the power and influence in your office lays and try to understand the social networks
- Who gets along with whom?
- Are there any groups that have formed?
- Which of you colleagues are involved in interpersonal conflict?
- Who has trouble getting along with others?
- How does influence flow between different groups?
Use your knowledge about the existing relationships and build your own social network. Get to know the politically powerful people in your organization and make sure that you have relationships in all directions of the formal hierarchy I.e. with your peers, bosses and subordinates. This will ensure that you have people on your side in any situation.
Don’t Take Sides
It is possible for you to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who have locked horns with each other. You find yourself being constantly thrown around while they try to undermine each other’s position and outwit each other. In such a situation, you can’t get any work done because you can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and both of them are too afraid that they will get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.
In a situation like this, focus on what is best for the business and don’t take sides with either of them – even if you prefer one of them over the other. Give equal importance to both of their communications and make sure to be equally available for both of them.
By make sure that you don’t take sides, you’ll help to resolve the conflict in an objective manner. You will also end up building trust with both the parties. This will help to keep your engagements with them constructive and focused on business objectives.
When You Are Being Targeted
Even after trying your best to not be targeted, sometimes you can’t help but get involved in dirty office politics with a person that is determined to sabotage you. Here are a few strategies to deal with him:
- Get Feedback from a Supporter: Let a supporter know about your concerned about the specific person, ask them what they think you should do.
- Respond Strongly: Don’t chicken out if your saboteur tries to put you down, especially when in front of others. Make sure you respond with strength, try to use humor.
- Confront the Backstabber: Ask the person if they think you’ve done something wrong. If he provides you useful feedback, thank him and promise to work on improving. But if you get the sense that his reasons are unjustified, then be strong, you could even threaten him to take the matter to your superiors if things don’t change.
Chances are though, that if you play your cards right, you will never have to get your hands dirty in the vicious circle of office politics.