For those of us working in a corporate environment, corporate politics is something you must have heard, seen or played. The corporate world is highly political. Too political. As a matter of fact, you will be committing career suicide to think you can successfully grow through the ranks in your workplace being politically ignorant.
Often times, I have encountered people in the workplace attribute negative connotations to the word ‘politics.’ I always see them put up that sanctimonious face and say something like “oh, I don’t get involved in politics, it is not for me,” or “politics is a dirty game!”
While you might have your reasons for loathing the word ‘politics’, I think it is rather naïve to pursue your career in a corporate environment with such a perspective towards politics. Like it or not, politics is an inevitable part of the corporate landscape. It is a work-related behaviour and it is important you understand it. So, I think it is important for young professionals to understand the concept of workplace politics and how to manage it.
I was discussing with my mentor, who was also my boss at the time and this was what he had to say about corporate politics, “Politics is when the WHO becomes more important than the WHAT. That is to say, when an individual’s motivation is personal rather than driven by the overall objective of the organization”.
From the definition, it did not sound to me like something that any employee with good intentions should be meddling with. But before I could resolve in my mind not to get involved in the politics of the work place, he quickly chipped in “However, politics is an inevitable part of a work environment or a corporate landscape and so it is important for you to become politically savvy otherwise, you run the risk of being blindsided by the personal objectives of colleagues who have the potential to hinder your success and effectiveness in the workplace”.
I was a bit confused at this point, but he explained a bit further. He said “understand, however, that there is a difference between the strategy of managing workplace politics and the strategy of being political”. This cleared all my doubts and shaped my perspective towards politics in the workplace.
Politics in the workplace is inevitable… from experience, interaction and observation. Put any three people together, and there will be political dynamics. We are wired that way. Like my mentor told me, you must be politically savvy, or else another person go use his reggae spoil your blues. But in doing this you must choose your strategy. You either choose to become politically savvy in order to manage corporate politics or choose to become political.
Is there any difference? Yes, there is.
Managing corporate politics is a positive and defensive, yet proactive approach to maneuvering through a work environment. But, being ‘Political’, on the other hand, is more of a deliberate and conscious choice to drive self-interest over business success.
There are people that work with you in the same organization that function in their job primarily driven by their own personal and ulterior motives or agenda, which can in turn lead to unnecessary power tussle, lying, secrets, backstabbing and eye service (Posturing). That is not to say that you have to steer clear of workplace politics, because playing the game may be crucial to career success. The question now is how you as sincere employee can positively manage the politics and navigate through so that someone else will not truncate your career dreams.
What I will share are few tips I believe will help you stay afloat. They may not sound entirely new, but they produce the desired result.
1. Be courteous and respectful
Respect everybody that work together with you in your organization from the security guards to the top management. Be polite and courteous to all irrespective of their position or influence. Ensure that work etiquettes begins and end with you. Sometimes, things can go out of hand. In such scenarios, confront the situation by focusing on the act and not the actor. Address unwanted behaviors around you and never the individual.
2. Avoid partisanship or cliques
Do not even make the mistake of forming an alliance with anybody or group in your workplace. It is easy and tempting to identify the folks that call the shots and wield so much influence in your workplace and try to build alliance with them or offer them exclusive loyalty. All it takes is one staffing restructuring to shift the balance of power. So it is more effective to form and clique with everybody across board. Everyone has a desire to be treated as though he or she is the most important person in the world and really to them they are.
3. Talk less, Listen More
I know that at times, office gossips seems juicy, but if you must navigate through the politics of the corporate landscape, you must stay away from office gossip. If the gist is steaming hot, you can listen but desist from saying a word and also don’t make it very obvious that you are interested in the gossip. When someone brings the gist exclusively to your desk, politely put a stop to the conversation. If there are things you really do not like about your job, it is not open for discussion with your colleagues, keep it to heart until you are ready to change jobs. You have two ears and one mouth, so do much of the listening than the talking so that people won’t get you into trouble.
4. Toot Your Own Horn
Don’t be afraid to highlight your achievements in your workplace. If no one knows of your good work, you may lose at the game of office politics, when you really deserve to win. There are people that are out to frustrate your efforts and take the shine off you. They thrive on destructive office politics. Do not be bothered by their antics. The more they make you an object of their attack, the more they make your contributions obvious. Don’t succumb to the dirty fight. Always keep your cool and enjoy your ride to significance and relevance brought about by their own ‘bad’ publicity. Let others know what you have and can accomplish whenever you get the opportunity. However, avoid taking personal credit for team work you participated in even if your lead the team.
5. Use the Door
If your organization has a culture that thrives on lying, blackmailing, sabotage and threats and it does not match your personality, you really do not have to change who you are to compete or thrive in such work environment. Stay true to yourself. If you can’t cope with that, put in your resignation and take a walk. It might seem a difficult alternative but it is better than risking the integrity of your person and jeopardizing your career fulfilment.
Have a great week and stay productive. #TGIM
Photo Credit: Foto.com.ng | Nsoedo Frank