Navigating Work Politics

By Subashini Rajasuriah

 

Being a newbie in the work force can be tough. You are trying to find where you fit in and doing your best to juggle new tasks that keep coming your way and all of a sudden you get handed this unexpected wild card that is work politics. 

It’s important to note that not all forms of work politics are bad. If employees perform good acts and positively influence others, workplace politics can be a positive advantage. It can be used to build interpersonal employee relationships, improve efficiency and conduct, and elicit change.  

Positive political behavior can ultimately improve company morale and employee retention. It is the negative aspects that we want to avoid such as backstabbing, blackmailing, gossiping or spreading rumors about others and deliberately withholding important information to undermine one’s performance. 

 

 

However, the reality of it is that office politics has a lot of layers and depths to it and identifying it is crucial in avoiding getting caught in the crossfire. 

Here are some tips to develop strategies to recognize and understand political behavior and to build a sound, supportive network. 

 

Understanding the organisational structure

Office politics tend to bypass the formal organisational structure. Understanding the organisational structure allows you to make sense of the political standing and influential power that certain individuals hold in the organisation. Power and influence are constantly shifting so make sure you stay tuned to the dynamics in the office. Make it a point to create visibility with influential parties. This will allow you to develop a network of allies who will advocate for you and support your initiatives and advancement. 

 

Expanding your network 

Once you become familiar with how existing relationships work, you can start to build your own social network. Look beyond your team and engage with individuals from other departments i.e., co-workers, managers and executives. Don’t be intimidated by politically powerful people. Instead, get to know them, and establish quality connections by expressing genuine interest about your goals and how it aligns with the company. Be friendly with everyone, but avoid aligning yourself too closely with one group or another and always remember to maintain an air of professionalism even when deviating to more casual or personal topics. 

 

Building People Skills

Politics are all about managing people, so strong interpersonal skills will act as building blocks when it comes to creating and maintaining your network. 

Evaluate how you’re feeling, what prompts a reaction from you and how to handle it. If you can learn to regulate your emotions, you’ll be able to think before you act. This kind of emotional intelligence helps you to pick up on other people’s emotions, too, and to understand what kind of approach they like or dislike.  

It also trains you to react appropriately in the work place when presented with a tough situation or when responding to colleagues that may try to bait you by gauging your reaction. This also teaches you to listen which will allow you to slow down, focus, and learn from constructive feedback designed to improve your performance rather than viewing it as critique against your character.