What comes to your mind when you think ‘office politics’?
It often brings to mind evil gossip, gaslighting, back-biting, and sometimes worse. It is no surprise that it is often a reason people quit their jobs. I hear a common refrain- I just want to do my work and not play politics!
If this is how you feel, too, I invite you to be curious about what you call politics and double-click on what particularly irks you about the politics that you are witnessing. Given below are 3 scenarios that you may be experiencing and whether you need to stay away/ get away from them or find a different lens to look at them –
How things get done, how communication happens (formally/ informally), and how decisions are made (collectively in meetings, one-on-one offline, or any other way)? You probably feel there isn’t enough transparency or there is a lot of lobbying. Every organization has unspoken, unwritten ways of working. These signify the culture of the organization. You may be able to influence them at some stage, but normally, you cannot fight the culture of a place. Therefore, it makes sense to learn these ways of working enough to operate effectively.
Bootlickers are preferred by management. Are you thinking about smart working or savvy working as political? For example, the ability to read the room, modify your approach, know your stakeholders well and understand what they aspire to from a project or discussion, and create a win-win situation. This is building relationships with stakeholders and doing the important homework to work well with others and collectively succeed.
There are cliques at the workplace that support each other. You think the workplace is biased. There is no denying the power of connections and interpersonal influence. Have you noticed how easy it is to do your job when working with people you know, like, and trust? Putting your head down and focusing on work alone will not get you the success you dream of. Building relationships and intentionally developing your know, like, and trust will increase your effectiveness and influence.
Also, know that bias is human. Maybe what you think of as somebody’s bias towards somebody is your bias against them or vice versa. If you are curious about it, you can call out your own and somebody else’s biases, too. You can show leadership by bringing unconscious biases to the surface and improving your organization’s culture.
To conclude, it is demotivating if you feel you are a victim of politics or favoritism. You must do everything to stay away from it – gossip, taking credit for somebody’s work. If it is done to you, have the courage to call it out and good relationships to keep it at bay and ward off its effects. Get away from unethical practices. Always do what is best for your organization. As a leader, work towards creating an inclusive and equitable culture. As an individual, keep an open mind, and before you call something political and cast it away, reflect on whether you are shying away from learning new skills or staying away from bad politics.
PS – Want to learn key skills to succeed at work? Book a free consult to discover how I can help.