Let’s be honest. Office politics exist. The surest way to succeed is to learn to play them. I frequently hear friends and clients lament, “Why can’t we all just get along?” You can. Just that getting along” is different of each of us. Political drama, turf wars, personality clashes and hidden agendas demands you can’t tuck your head down. Success doesn’t imply you have to be a “brown noser” pardon the expression. You don’t have to be a corporate climber or power grabber. However …. you have to find ways to move up the ladder with allies without offending.
BE AWARE YOU HAVE A CHOICE
The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers. Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.
Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…
KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO ACHIEVE
When conflicts happens, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.
The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins. It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.
By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.
FOCUS ON YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE
At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests. Bitching and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do bitching really accomplish? In most instances, none.
Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation – your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints. You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome, but you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.
Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.
DON’T TAKE SIDES
In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position. All at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.
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