Office politics can sometimes be as shameful as many would argue real politics in Washington D.C. has always been – fraught with liars, talking heads, and power-hungry corporate bandits competing for their coveted turf. Furthermore, when you’re just trying to come to work, do a good job and get paid well for it, office politics can sometimes be nothing more than a distraction, an annoyance, an obstacle to your career success. So, given the fact that office politics exists whether you like it or not, what do you do? How do you navigate office politics, while keeping both your sanity and your job? There a few options to choose from:
1) Stay Above the Fray
There are those who believe that the best way to deal with office politics is to acknowledge its existence, but operate at a level that demonstrates that you’re completely aloof and indifferent to it all. For example, every office has a manager who is good at what she does, is well-respected, but who will not under any circumstances get involved in office politics. She knows all about the scary IT manager with the Napoleonic complex, but treats him like everyone else. She is well aware of the intimidating CEO and his sidekick CFO that try to bully everyone into compliance with their power and authority, but she doesn’t become a yes-woman and she doesn’t shy away in order to stay under the radar of retribution from those in high places. She knows all about the games that people play in organizations to get what they want and prevent others from getting what they need, and yet she operates above it, somewhat akin to the King who watches the village from his throne on high, and allows the villagers to live their lives without disturbing them.
2) Completely Ignore It – at Your Own Peril
Ignoring office politics may sound an awful lot like staying above the fray, but there’s a bit of a difference. When you ignore the backstabbers and the power-wielders and the guardian angels in the office, you lose your sense of awareness of them. The individual who tries to completely ignore office politics is the one most vulnerable to becoming the victim. Like it or not, companies are filled with people who misrepresent the truth, and do and say things to raise themselves up while pushing others down. If you choose to be the person who ignores the fact that all this is going on, you’ll soon be one of the people who gets pushed down, demoted, or fired. While it is sad but true, you must take a position in office politics. Play the game fairly or unfairly, or stay above the fray, but don’t ignore the fact that office politics exists.
3) Play the Game Fairly
Office politics doesn’t have to be all about nasty fights and violent power struggles. It can also be about people simply leveraging themselves in the office to further their career. In many instances, playing a little office politics can be done without causing detriment to others. It can be practiced by cozying up to those in positions of authority to get your project or ideas noticed, or it can be practiced by working hard on a company initiative in order to be named a key advisor to the top decision makers. Since there’s no harm in those types of activities, that’s proof that maybe the activities of office politics aren’t as bad as some might make them seem, if they’re played fairly.
4) Get Down and Dirty
Lastly, the least preferred modus operandi is to play office politics unfairly and to get down and dirty with the worst of them. Playing nasty office politics – sleeping with the boss, sabotaging colleagues, publicly embarrassing those you dislike – always comes back to bite you. Live by bad behavior and die by it, in almost all circumstances. The only exception to this might be for those of you who work in truly horrible places, devoid of honesty and integrity, where bad behavior is the only thing that gets you anywhere. In that sort of environment, maybe, dirty office politics can get you somewhere. However, if the office is really that bad, then shouldn’t you get out of the game rather than trying to play it?
by Melanie Haniph