How to Deal with Office Politics
When office politics get out of hand, it can create a toxic work environment. But it doesn't have to be that way. We'll break up how to deal with office politics professionally, no matter what kind of politics you have in your workplace.
What are 'Office Politics'?
Merriam-Webster defines Office Politics as: the activities, attitudes or behaviors that are used to gain or retain power or an advantage within a company or firm. Basically, every person in the office will be loved or disliked by other people, and those positive and negative relationships with other employees create a political culture.
Think about it. Have you ever complained to a colleague at work? Maybe you complained about another colleague not doing their job. Or maybe you had a question, but you specifically avoided asking someone you thought you didn't like. These are all examples of the kind of office politics that are present in every workplace.
Is office politics bad?
To be honest, the word 'Office Politics' sounds like a bad thing. If someone came to you and said how much they liked office politics, it probably wouldn't make a good first impression.
But the fact is that office politics is an inevitable by-product of social interaction and doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing.
Can they be a bad thing? Absolutely. That's why you want to make sure you think about how you respond to office politics.
How to deal with office politics: 4 Tips
So how do you deal with office politics? Ramit recently interviewed a friend of his, Kevin Hillstrom, about how he dealt with office politics in the past. Kevin is now a successful CEO, but when he was an analyst at Land's End, he struggled with office politics.
Don't be naive.
Most people think the best way to deal with office politics is to avoid it completely. That sounds great, but in practice it's really hard. After Kevin experienced his first meeting with all executives, he realized that being naive about office politics is a bad strategy. Instead, you recognize the game being played around you. When you recognize the situation, you can choose to act in a way that protects your integrity and keeps you out of political traps.
Learn to read the room
Some people have difficulty noticing the political dynamics. In the video you can see that Kevin Hillstrom is one of them. When he gave an important presentation to a group of executives, he didn't pay attention to the political dynamics between the executives, which had a huge impact on how they saw Kevin's presentation.
Think about it. If I'm a top manager, and I really don't like Jim van Sales, and Kevin's presentation really appeals to Jim van Sales, then I'm much less inclined to be convinced. But if Kevin had read the room, he would have been able to address and convince all the executives.
Look at what other successful people do
While Kevin was working at Land's End, he overheard his boss talking about his lack of business skills. Of course this remark crossed his mind, but Kevin used it as a wake-up call to improve himself.
One of the first things he did? He started paying attention to what successful people did in the office. He said one of his bosses was able to build a reputation for always having the facts and information to make good decisions, and people above her noticed and paid attention to her. Instead of just copying her, Kevin used that to build his own reputation based on how he saw the world.
Building a reputation is politics. But it's not a bad thing. This is an example of how you can use office politics to advance your career without creating a toxic work environment.
Work on your communication skills
Whether your office is full of politics or not, working on your communication skills is ALWAYS useful. By being a better communicator, you can avoid the kind of misunderstandings that fuel the office drama. You can also build a good reputation for yourself by communicating clearly. Communication was a big weakness for Kevin, so he took an 8 week course to learn how to convince people.
You probably don't have to go to extremes, but improving his communication skills helped Kevin to get promoted and eventually run his own business.
If you want to get ahead in your career and learn how to effectively navigate office politics, check out my free Ultimate Guide to Social Skills below. I'll show you how to communicate effortlessly, make a good first impression and read other people in the room. Enter your email below.
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