Workplace politics are unfortunately found in organizations and companies of nearly every size. The challenges are evident when you see favoritism, opportunities provided to just a select few, resources extended to certain people or even certain departments but not to others, promotions given to those who may not be truly qualified based on experience, skills or work performance, racial and/or gender bias is evident, there’s a significant amount of gossip at work, etc.
The savvy leaders are better able to navigate workplace politics without a misstep. To ensure success and increase opportunities there are a few critical strategies they employ. Here's how to steer your own ship through the choppy waters of workplace politics.
Know Who Has Power. Find the org chart for your department and/or the organization so you know who’s responsible for what and who has the power and influence in your organization. Determine who controls the resources (budget, people, vendors, etc.) Create a list of those with the most influence and those who have access to what you need/want. Then, begin to build relationships. Use your people skills to create opportunities for trust. Then, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Explore whether there’s anything they need that you can provide or support in some way.
Leverage Your Current Network. If you are new to the organization this will take time. As you work, deepen the relationships you already have by collaborating on projects, supporting others who need assistance and asking for help when you need it. Know who are your strongest allies and champions across the organization. Determine who you need to know to advance your goals and cultivate those relationships (as noted above.)
Be Aware – But Not Distant. Staying away from all those who are gossips, pick favorites or manipulate for their own gain may not be an option. As Monster.com shares, “the expression, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer," often applies to office politics.” The best practice is to know who you can trust. Be professional, cautious and thoughtful about who you deepen your relationship with so that trust isn’t unwittingly broken. Understand that poor politics is often allowed because as human beings individuals who are insecure, competitive, fearful and needy may find themselves in “survival mode” and leaning on basic instincts instead of professional acumen. Those actions speak volumes and often lead to self-sabotage.
Stay in Control of Your Emotions. The biggest challenge is often staying calm despite the frustration. Stay in control of your own emotions when you feel there is a lack of fairness, discrimination or others are ignoring/limiting what you have to contribute. There is often a time and a place for confronting what you are experiencing. The key again is knowing your network and those who have the power to make a difference. Lean on those who are trusted and can help mentor you through any potentially difficult conversations.
Don’t Be a “Negative Nancy.” You have power too. You have influence. You can help to make a workplace become more positive by not adding to the mix and joining in negative politics. The rumor mill may be alive and thriving where you are working. Don’t pass along information that speaks poorly of others. Always carefully consider their source, credibility and impact and don't rely on confidentiality. It's always wiser to assume that what you say will be repeated, so choose carefully what personal "secrets" you reveal about yourself or others.
To ensure you continue to increase your success while navigating workplace politics just remember that relationships are the key and always remain professional. Don't give your power away or take sides. Try never to get pulled into arguments or negativity. When a conflict arises, finding a solution that’s a win-win is more effective and sustainable. Always strive for the 30,000 ft. view and focus on the needs of the organization, rather than one person or the other.
If you find workplace politics are limiting your success Blue Bee Coaching & Associates can help.
Resources: Forbes.com, Monster.com and Mindtools.com