Unless you have always worked by yourself, you are likely to have come across office politics in one form or another. When you think about it, it is just another way of describing human relationships. It’s not surprising that workplaces usually have some type of politics — especially when the nature of many jobs means you don’t get to choose who you work with. So how do you rise above workplace politics and yet still save face?
From observing my own and other people’s behaviour, I have noticed that it is possible to navigate workplace politics and come out smiling. It is not always easy, and it takes practice but there are mindsets and behaviours that make it easier to do.
1. Treat Others As You Want To Be Treated
Gossiping is the fuel for workplace politics. Gossiping means that things are not dealt with directly and can be very damaging. Whatever has been said is usually distorted as it is passed around, whether intentionally or not. Be direct and deal with things professionally. Try not to gossip — and if someone tells you something, don’t pass it on. You can let your co-workers know (verbally or by your actions) that you don’t want to engage in gossip. This can be hard initially but once people see that you mean what you say, they will respect you for it. At the end of the day, we all view life through our own unique and subjective lens; try and see the bigger picture. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be understanding to your co-workers, but there are always two sides to any story. I have seen people swallow up everything that is said to them and turn on other people as a result. Take a step back and try and be objective — it will help you to keep a professional distance and avoid being pulled into politics yourself.
2. Be Self Aware
Being self aware is an important skill in any area of life and is invaluable in navigating workplace politics. Work isn’t a separate part of life; who we are in other areas of our life will be mirrored in our work life. The more self aware you are, the more aware you will be of your strengths and weaknesses and your part in the external world. We have all seen people who complain about someone (or something) at work, only to change jobs and find themselves in exactly the same situation somewhere else. This doesn’t excuse bad behaviour on other people’s part in a situation, but it is hugely empowering when you can see your own part — then you see that you have the power to change it. Do people always ignore your ideas or talk over you in meetings? This could be a sign of something deeper than just bad ideas. Have a look at your own beliefs about yourself and your ideas. Do they need to change?
3. Leave Work At Work
Get into the habit of leaving work at work. The better you become at concentrating on work when you are there and your home life when you are at home, the happier you will be in both. I have had times where I have felt very unhappy about work and the politics of where I was working. Yet although it can seem counterintuitive, it helped to draw a line in my mind that when I left the workplace I knew it was time to focus on other areas of my life. It can (of course) help to have a listening ear at times, and if you need that it is important to seek it out. Whether you look for it professionally or through a friend, just notice if you are letting things spill over into other areas of your life and if you need to talk to someone about it.
4. Be Professional
Being professional is one of the best rules of thumb that you can use. It can be tempting to tell someone what you really think of them or tell your boss what they can do with their job, but in the long run this will damage you more than anything else. Even if everyone is being unprofessional around you, stick to your guns and behave professionally. No one will have any reason to reproach you and you will feel better for being the bigger person in the long run.
5. Do Your Job Well
The bottom line is that you are employed to do a job; do it well. It can be difficult, especially if there are issues with your boss or if you feel that the politics in the workplace are affecting your motivation. However, if you act professionally and do a perform well in the job you are assigned to, you will feel on top of things in that area and know that no one has reason to question your competency.
6. See The Bigger Picture
If you are in a job where you have to constantly rise above workplace politics, it can be tiring and frustrating. More so, it can be difficult to see how things could change. But they do. People leave and dynamics change, and if they don’t then it might be that you choose to leave. Either way, nothing stays the same forever. A change in perspective and implementing some positive habits can make a big difference and have a ripple effect on those around you.
It can be easy to get caught up in the day to day when you are in a job. But if you can take that step back and see the bigger picture, it can help you see the forest for the trees about what you are doing and help you rise above the situation.
What has been your experience with politics in the workplace? How have you dealt with it?
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