Office Politics: Crossing Swords or Building Bridges

 In Business Success, Communication, office politics, Organizational Change

Office politics most often leads to crossing swords or building bridges. You see, office politics spawn from human nature-good or bad. Being political means seeking to use or gain position power and influence.

Why are leaders and others so political in companies? Like it or not, politics is partly inherent in their jobs. Leaders are constantly making decisions to gain advantage for the company over competitors, creditors, customers, investors, vendors and, at times, employees. However, one way to evaluate decisions you think are political is to ask this key question: “Are the decisions being made for the good of the organization or for the executive’s self-interest only?”

Office Politics: Crossing SwordsOffice Politics: Do, Don't and No No's

Office politics can be quite complex, but here are seven common situations people may encounter that lead to crossing swords or conflict.

  1. “The Power Struggle”: This scenario involves individuals vying for influence, control, or recognition within the organization. It might manifest as competing for promotions, credit for successful projects, or decision-making authority.
  2. “The Gossip Mill”: Office gossip can create a toxic environment. Whether it’s rumors about colleagues, their personal lives, or work-related matters, navigating this scenario requires discretion and avoiding participation in harmful conversations.
  3. “The Favoritism Game”: Sometimes, managers or higher-ups show favoritism toward certain employees. This can lead to resentment and strained relationships among team members.
  4. “The Cliques”: Like high school, office cliques exist. People naturally gravitate toward those they feel comfortable with, but it can create divisions and exclusion. Navigating this scenario involves building relationships across groups.
  5. “The Credit Thief”: This is the individual that takes credit for others’ work or ideas. It is essential to advocate for yourself and ensure your contributions receive recognition.
  6. “The Hidden Agendas”: People may have ulterior motives or hidden agendas. Whether it’s pushing their own interests or undermining others, recognizing these dynamics is crucial.
  7. “The Backstabber”: Unfortunately, colleagues may undermine you behind your back. Building strong relationships and maintaining transparency can help mitigate this scenario.

Remember, understanding office politics is essential for professional growth. Being aware of these scenarios allows you to navigate them effectively and maintain a positive work environment!

Office Politics: Building Bridges

Office Politics: Do, Don't and No No'sHandling office politics while maintaining your integrity is essential for a successful and harmonious work environment. The following approaches tend to build bridges–greater collaboration and teamwork.

Stay Neutral and Objective:

  • Avoid taking sides in conflicts, gossip, or politics. Instead, focus on facts and objective information.
  • Be a mediator when necessary, promoting open communication and understanding.

Build Genuine Relationships

  • Cultivate authentic connections with colleagues. Show interest in their work and well-being.
  • Networking is not about using people; it is about building mutually beneficial relationships.

Be Transparent and Honest

  • Communicate openly with your team and superiors. Share your thoughts, concerns, and ideas.
  • Avoid withholding information or being deceptive.

Focus on Solutions, Not Blame

  • When problems arise, concentrate on finding solutions rather than pointing fingers.
  • Encourage a problem-solving mindset within your team.

Set Boundaries

  • Be clear about your limits. Politely decline involvement in harmful activities.
  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout.

Document Everything

  • Keep records of conversations, decisions, and agreements.
  • This helps protect your integrity and ensures clarity in case of disputes.

Avoid Office Cliques and Favoritism

  • While it is natural to have close colleagues, do not exclude others.
  • Treat everyone fairly and equally.

Be Professional and RespectfulOffice Politics: Do, Don't and No No's

  • Even if others engage in negative behavior, maintain your professionalism.
  • Treat everyone with respect, regardless of their position.

Seek Guidance from Mentors or HR:

  • If you are unsure how to oversee a situation, consult a mentor or your human resources department.
  • They can provide guidance on ethical approaches.

Lead by Example:

  • Demonstrate integrity in your actions and decisions.
  • Others will notice and follow suit.

Remember, character is about doing the right thing consistently even when no one is watching. By adhering to these principles, you can navigate office politics without compromising your values.

Leaders vs. Employees in Office Politics

Then, too, you must keep in mind that employees usually do not have access to the same information as upper management and may misinterpret an executive’s actions. Management can minimize the perception that a decision involves political self-interest by constantly communicating to clear up any misunderstandings. When employees draw their own conclusions without management’s view, the result will often be erroneous.

Office Politics: Do, Don't and No No'sManagers that lack ethics skew their understanding of how to influence employees in the workplace. For example, the owner of a mid-size company said: “Employees are children,” he said. “Give them sweets once in a while and they’ll be happy and do what you want.” Now, there is a leader who has low regard for his employees and treats them accordingly. Consequently, it is no surprise that there’s high turnover and low morale in his company.

In another example of misused power, an owner deliberately pits his managers against one another. As a result, customers receive bad service because internal business departments are not cooperating.

Why are managers so political? Part of the reason is certainly human nature and a characteristic of organizations as people jockey for position. But from a business viewpoint, playing a political game may seem attractive in the short-term, and lead to win-lose situations in the long-term. Also, egotistical leaders are extremely greedy and only out for themselves. This is a fact . They do what they do to advance their career and position without regard for others. We see high-profile examples in the news media when reporters expose their shenanigans.

Pulling It All Together

Extraordinary companies and managers regularly break the traditional political mold to forge new standards in ethical operations. Companies like L.L. Bean, Google, and Microsoft are examples. Managers who focus on win-win want the employees and organization to do well besides themselves. Managers who are authentic and really care are like apples of gold–Servant Leaders. They do not play office politics. Employees appreciate that and respond with exemplary service and performance. In sum, the best advice is stay out of it and do your job the best you can. However, build positive relationships, create great ideas, execute them brilliantly, and do it with integrity. In conclusion, consider these quotes on office politics. As Steve Job’s said, “In weak companies, politics win. In strong companies, the best ideas do.”

  1. “True leaders rise above office politics and create a culture of collaboration and growth.” – Unknown
  2. “The best leaders understand that unity and shared purpose transcend the complexities of office politics.” – John F. Kennedy
  3. “Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” – Ronald Reagan
  4. “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.” – Groucho Marx
  5. “There’s been a quantum leap technologically in our age, but unless there’s another quantum leap in human relations, unless we learn to live in a new way towards one another, there will be a catastrophe.” – Albert Einstein
  6. “I don’t want any yes-men around me. I want everyone to tell me the truth–even if it costs him his job.” – Samuel Goldwyn
  7. “Leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in your charge.” – Simon Sinek
  8. “Office politics are bloody-minded but weak on content.” – Mason Cooley
  9. “A root cause of rising unemployment is not illiteracy but sycophancy, mainly at the top hierarchy.” – Anuj Soman
  10. “In weak companies, politics win. In strong companies, the best ideas do.” – Steve Jobs
  11. “If you want to work in Corporate, then you should know how to play Chess.” ― honeya
  12. “The best leaders are those most interested in surrounding themselves with assistants and associates smarter than they are.” – John C. Maxwell
  13. “Leadership is not about being the boss. It’s about inspiring and empowering others to achieve greatness.” – Unknown
  14. “If you think your boss is stupid, remember; you wouldn’t have a job if he was smarter.” – Albert Grant
  15. “When words are both true and kind, they can change the world.” – Buddha

Office Politics: Do, Don't and No No'sFor more quotes and ideas related to leadership, why not join us on LinkedIn for the Servant Leadership revolution that is taking place about the power of people? Go here: SERVANT LEADERSHIP TODAY. THANK YOU!

Also, see Rick’s newest book. The 5 Dynamics of Servant Leadership: How to accelerate your career and inspire your team!  See his newest self-directed leadership training: 21 Servant Leadership Training Lessons.

Finally, do you want to accelerate your leadership success? Let your results speak not office politics. Go here for Rick’s Superstar Leadership eBook.

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