The majority of Americans work in an office of some type.
While some people go about their work and are perfectly happy, blissfully unaware of the office politics going on around them. Others feel like they are in an urban jungle.
Some people find it difficult to handle all the politics going on, getting stressed and feeling victimized.
Others use it to their advantage, leap-frogging over their peers and earning promotions.
So what is it that separates one person from the next? Why are some people more successful than others in a shorter space of time?
Is it because they are harder workers, more gifted, or maybe they are high achievers.
Well, none of the above is worth a lot without understanding, and using the office politics around them to their advantage.
So let’s take a look at what these office politics are all about. How to play office politics and win, and what separates people.
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What Is Office Politics?
So, what is office politics? It’s often a topic that office co-workers aren’t comfortable talking about openly. Yet it exists in every workplace, and almost everyone plays a part in it.
Office politics are developed between the different personalities and people in an office. It’s manifested from conflicts in interest, differences of opinion, and cause huge rifts.
So, if politics in the office are unavoidable. How do you use it to your advantage, and how to you come out looking good?
Ever noticed how some people play the game and always get the pay rises and promotions? They know how to use office politics to their advantage. Maybe deliberately, maybe subconsciously, but they know.
And like everything, it can be learned. By following the information in this post you can come out a winner.
How to Play Office Politics and Win
Make Smart Choices
The office can become a war-zone at times, and it can become normal to be at war with others. But this is not the right course of action. Winners are always composed, and take their time to make smart choices.
Don’t react to others and go on the defensive. But don’t let people roll over you either. Stand your ground, but always think first and act with intent. Avoid becoming emotional, keep a calm head.
Office politics can become like a game of chess. Everyone is making moves, and each move has a reaction on the rest of the workforce. So try and think one step ahead, consider the possibilities of each outcome.
Have a Clear Goal
If you find yourself in the middle of some conflict, you risk getting dragged into a slinging match. There is no real good outcome once you have entered into conflict. So don’t let this get in the way of your goals.
The way to divert the negative attention of having a disagreement with a work colleague is to shift the focus to the business. Remove yourself and the other person from the limelight, and ask them what is in the best interest of the business.
Everyone should have the business’s best interest at heart. If they don’t, they will paint themselves in a negative light. Try and take the lead and start listing the pros and cons of the points you were disagreeing on.
Learning this essential skill of redirecting conversations, and refocusing people around you is essential in office politics. It shows you as proactive employee, and someone with the business’s goals as a priority.
Leverage Your Circle of Influence
We often come across issues and problems in our line of work that we have control over. The feeling of not being in control is a scary one for some. But knowing how to gain control where others can’t will set you apart from them.
There is no point moaning and complaining about things that are out of your control. But if you are being affected, there is going to be something you can do. Reach out to your circle of influencers that can help.
Whether it works or not, it shows initiative and forward thinking to try and find a resolve this way. People like to help, and as long as it’s not something you could do you will be seen in a good light.
Tightening up your working relationships with influencers is a handy office politic move too. You never know when you will need to call on them again.
Try to Stay Neutral
In office politics you may find yourself caught up in the middle of two people disagreeing. Both parties will believe they are in the right, and will look to you to validate one of them. Be strong and resist taking sides, it’s not your battle.
Disagreement often arise over who is going to take ownership of a task. People often fear taking ownership means they will be blamed for any failings. As such, they will often try and push a task onto someone else.
If you experience this taking place, don’t get involved. The correct political thing to do is to look at the businesses best interests again. It’s a diplomatic approach, and allows reason to settle the argument – hopefully with egos intact.
Instead of picking one side and forming an allegiance. This will allow you to strengthen your position with both of the disagreeing parties. An integral chess move in learning how to play office politics and win.
Never, Ever, Get Personal
There are many ways how to handle office politics. But none of them involve getting personal with anyone, this is definite no-no. Sure you will get angry from time-to-time, it happens to the most placid of people. But you cannot lose your cool.
People always remember the moments they were embarrassed, insulted, or personally attacked. It will stay with you for the remainder of your career at the organization. It will hang over you like a grey cloud, and it’s hard to shake off.
To be a winner at office politics, you need friends not enemies. You need to build up a network of allies, people you can lean on in times of need. Don’t be short-sighted and think the person you offended will forgive and forget – it rarely happens.
Your temperament is something that will be looked at in appraisals. Being known as a hot-head can damage your chances of promotion. So in the heat of the moment, take a few deep breaths and bite your tongue for the greater good.
Look for the Win-Win Option
As mentioned previously, conflicts of interest are commonplace in offices. We are brought up believing that for every winner, there is a loser, right? Meaning that if you’re not winning in the workplace, you are losing.
Well, this isn’t always true in the corporate world. In fact, there are some much better alternatives.
Look for the win-win option next time there is a conflict. Take a step back and mediate the situation, try and understand what the conflict is about. You will almost always find there is a way both parties can “win”.
It will likely involve some compromise, which is fine. It’s basic psychology for people to want to win, and to feel important. Find a resolve that leaves the other person feeling like they have made a gain, and when satisfied the rest of the gain is for you.
Remember the golden rule – maximize your allies, and minimize your enemies. If this means compromising, so be it.
For good or for bad, office politics are a way of life in the office arena. A psychological war-zone.
Dealing with office politics is necessary if you are going to be a winner. If you avoid it all together, sure you may have a peaceful working life. But you will be governed by your inferiors and pushed around.
As with any political forum, if you don’t make your voice heard you risk being overlooked.
Learning how to play office politics and win will set you aside from your peers. Use the tips above, and learn how to leverage the power to your advantage. While diffusing the efforts of other who try to abuse it.
I wish you luck in your workplace, and with your career progression.
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.