How To Survive Office Politics

How many times have you been chewed up and spat out during your career? Maybe you have had to spit someone out yourself? Office politics is an unavoidable fact of modern business. In a room of highly intelligent professional people, who all wish to progress in their careers, sometimes it is the survival of the fittest. Here are seven suggestions of how to negotiate the minefield, and ideally not get involved in the first place….

Rule #1 Be a leader– professionally and socially. Be someone who both delivers results and is also involved socially, regardless of position or status. Cultivating positive relationships on all social levels is crucial as you never know what sort of allies you might need in the future. Sitting at your desk with you head in your work all day is not an option – no matter how successful you are.

Rule #2 Act with a positive intent. In all your dealings, if you strive for a positive outcome, you will be less likely to get involved in a negative situation. When people feel good being around you, they will be more open towards you. This would make asking for help or favours from them easier next time. If people are looking for conflict, hide your emotions and displeasure behind a smile. As with any provocation, they are looking for a reaction.

Rule #3 Try to understand everyone. Observe all your colleagues – their actions, their motivations, the hidden networks of influence. Take particular interest in those who you don’t like or trust. Get to know people’s backgrounds through small talk and understand what is important to them.

Rule #4 Be informed. I am not advocating being a terrible gossip because no one will trust you, but be informed about changes in the business, maybe something that you’ve observed that nobody else knows. Never gossip about others and know when to keep your mouth shut. Knowledge is power – it can sink a ship or keep it steaming ahead.

Rule #5 Accept people as they are. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you approve or disapprove of someone, but it is vital that there is a professional tolerance of everyone in the business – no matter what their behaviour or attitude towards you. If you can’t be civil to those that you don’t like, it is you that has the problem.

Rule #6 Be humble. Many people say that to get ahead you should flaunt your achievements. To a certain extent this is the case, but not to the point where you are seen as arrogant or complacent. Have a degree of humility. Not trying to “outshine” your boss or your colleagues will help you win hearts and ultimately influence people.

Rule #7 You can never be too helpful. Go out of your way to help others – in a professional setting even your enemies may need your support sometimes. This will strengthen relationships and give you more influence than getting involved in negative power struggles.

For a new graduate or an experienced stalwart, office politics is always something that requires careful negotiation. These are just a few personal rules – no doubt yours will be different.


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