Tips on positive politics at work.
‘Politics is showbusiness for ugly people’. No matter how ‘ugly’ it is and how frustrating it may be for you as a leader politics at work is something that you are going to have to deal with like any other challenge at work.
Why work politics are inevitable:
- Some people have more power than others, either through hierarchy or other basis of influence.
- For many people, gaining promotion is important, and this can create competition between individuals, or misalignment between the team’s objectives and those of individuals within it.
- Most people care passionately about decisions at work and this encourages political behavior as they seek to get their way .
- Decisions at work are impacted by both work-related goals and personal factors, so there is further scope for goal conflict.
- People and teams within organizations often have to compete for limited resources; this can lead to a kind of “tribal conflict” where teams compete to satisfy their needs and objectives, even when this is against the greater good.
People Power not Pay Grades
Office Politics often circumvent the formal Hierarchy. Sit back and watch for a while and then note who has the most people power as well as traditional grades and job titles.
- Who are the real influencers?
- Who has authority but doesn’t exercise it?
- Who is respected?
- Who champions or mentors others?
- Who is “the brains behind the organisation”?
Social Networks at work
Ever wonderred why social networking is so popular today? Well before the internet it was happening in work and life and it is an intrinsic part of human nature. In order to use positive politics well at work you need to understand the social networks present.
- Who gets along with whom?
- Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
- Who is involved in interpersonal conflict?
- Who has the most trouble getting along with others?
- What is the basis for the interrelationship? Friendship, respect, manipulation?
- How does the influence flow between the parties?
Build Your Social Network
Now that you know how the existing relationships work, you need to build your own social network accordingly.
- Do not be afraid of politically powerful people in the organization. Get to know them.
- Ensure you have relationships that cross the formal hierarchy in all directions (peers, bosses, executives).
- Start to build relationships with those who have the informal power.
- Build your relationships on trust and respect – avoid empty flattery.
- Be friendly with everyone but don’t align yourself with one group or another.
- Be a part of multiple networks – so you have a wider picture of how things work and make more informed choices
When you spend more time listening, you are less likely to say something that will come back to bite you later. Also, people like people who listen to them.
Make the Most of Your Network
As you build your relationships, you need to learn to use them to stay clear of negative politicking, and also to promote yourself and your team positively. It is up to you to communicate your own and your team’s abilities and successes to the right people, and you do this through positive political action. Use your network to:
- Gain access to information.
- Build visibility of your achievements.
- Improve difficult relationships.
- Attract opportunities where you can to shine.
- Seek out ways to make yourself, your team and your boss look good.
Neutralize Negative Play
Get to know these people better and be courteous to them, but always be very careful what you say to them.
- Understand what motivates these people and what their goals are, and so learn how to avoid or counter the impact of their negative politicking.
- Be aware that these people typically don’t think much of their talents (that’s why they rely on aggressive politicking to get ahead).
Govern Your Own Behavior
Don’t pass on gossip, questionable judgments, spread rumors – when you hear something, take a day to consider how much credibility it has.
- Rise above interpersonal conflicts – do not get sucked into arguments.
- Maintain your integrity at all times – always remain professional
- Be positive – avoid whining and complaining.
- Be confident and assertive but not aggressive.
- When voicing objections or criticism, make sure you take an organisational perspective not a personal one.
- Don’t rely on confidentiality – assume things will be disclosed and so decide what you should reveal accordingly.
- Be a model of integrity to your team, and discourage politics within it.
I would love to hear about how you deal with politics at work, please use the comment box to let me know your experiences with it.
Some help when making those networks… a great TED Video
Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions