How to Survive Office Politics

Office politics are a fact of life in every workplace where more than one person works, and some offices have particularly difficult political situations. However, with some attention to your behavior and that of your coworkers, it's possible to cope effectively with office politics. This article will guide you through the steps on how to survive office politics.


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    Give time and understand the psyche of your colleagues and seniors. It is important to understand the people you are working with: to know what motivates them, what they do outside the organisation, what do they aspire to be, and their view of the organisation.
    • No one is going to give this kind of information to you on a platter. You have to be careful, tactful and above all you have to be a good listener. Everyone wants to be heard. If you can just listen to people, within a short span of time you will develop their confidence in you. Becoming a confidante is the best possible thing in any set up, personal or professional.
    • Listen and only listen (this is more important if you are a new employee) and if there is something that you do not agree with keep it to yourself - no need to spell it out and try to make the person change his or her opinion. This goes for all you colleagues and your seniors. Listen to them, see what drives them and then make an opinion. If you understand the people then it is easier to deal with them.
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    Be nice and cordial to all. This is more true for bigger organisations/offices, as you don’t know when and whom you might have to work with! Whereas in smaller offices, the groups once established doesn’t get changed often and hence less/no issues.
    • So be nice to people. It will help in working and also in getting information, in knowing what’s happening all around, the office politics etc. Being nice does not mean that you have to be the ever smiling or the flattering types. Make sure that you disagree and put across your opinion/point also for otherwise you may be taken for granted.
    • If you are consistent and always stand for a certain group of things, people around you will understand and start respecting it too. There is no need to show disagreement unless it is a do or die situation which is usually an illusion.
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    Devise new ways of approaching issues. Out of box thinking always helps most of all in dealing with human resources. Now in general if people are professional then they are expected to behave in a particular manner and at least do as expected and spelled out in their job description.
    • The problem arises when they don’t want to do that and behave badly. Usually it’s not just a single person but a group of people who behave this way. All of them have the same attitude and the same alibi for not working – they have been in the system for long and know how it works!
    • It is here that one needs to devise innovative ways to approach them and get the work done and that too without disturbing the balance or encroaching on their seniority, in terms of years/experience or snob attitude! In simple layman's terms getting work done, without getting sidelined, by interfering in the office power games.
    • First of all be clear, what is it that you want them to do. Spell it out clearly, then figure out how much authority do you have over the people. If you are not their boss, don’t worry, there still are ways! Once the task is clear, talk to them directly. Present the task in such a way that it looks like you are asking for their help. You can even go to the extent of showing your inability in doing it on your own. Then ask them if they could help in looking it over and giving their input. In most cases this approach works!
    • Simply because it doesn’t look like you are bossing around … and the other person feels important, nice that you are asking them for help … that their opinion matters. It doesn’t look like you are making them work … so they are happy and your work gets done. The reason is simple – there are a large number of people who don’t want to work when asked … but will work when work is not put across as work! (Just like small children) And don’t forget that all the time you have to be nice and well meaning. At any point it should not look like you are being cunning …or selfish … which brings to the next point …
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    Be genuine as much as possible. While practicing any of the above, the one thing that you have to ensure is that you should come across as a genuine person. In fact you should not just come out as that but also be a genuine person. Now I know it’s not easy to be genuine while listening to someone’s tails of treachery/cunning ways or someone’s cribbing session! (I mean you will be genuine but in another direction!) So in that case, as have mentioned earlier also, don’t speak your mind … be silent … which is still genuine … for you neither agree nor disagree. Also be humane and more accepting of other people … try to not to judge people and the result would be a more genuine/ empathetic you. It is a quality that will help always and it is only this that will bring you closer to people in any set up. So be naturally concerned and helpful without going overboard.
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    To change the system is not possible and not needed/ necessary. Please understand and realise that systems are so because they were meant to be so … and they are serving their reason and aim … one person can not change and should not aim to change the system. So rest your oars … be true to yourself and your values and leave the organisation if you find the system and its practices a burden on yourself. Easier said than done … but there is no other way.
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    Have a lower benchmark. There is a limit to everything and then there is a saturation point. So the moment the red light of your conscious starts glowing … give it up … there are other places to work. For if you continue cribbing and also continue working then the day is not far when the benchmark will cease to exist and you will join the bandwagon of people who have no self esteem and who just exist.
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    Learn to play Chess … yes … it’s a mind game … and fits in well with the office politics! If you know how to play chess you would know how to be prepared for at least the next two steps of your opponent and in your office everyone is your opponent unless you have won them over and even in that case you should be careful and never let your guard down! Chess helps in thinking and gauging what should be your next step and from where all/ who all you need to protect your assets/skills/information … who is out to hit you etc. The game of Chess teaches this and much more … take these as lessons for life and not just for the game!
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    Know when to speak, where to speak and with whom to speak. If only what you speak reaches wrong ears, the repercussions could be as fatal as losing your job. Need I say more? Well so the thing is that, choose your confidante carefully and refrain from making hard hitting comments against a colleague or organisation in front of people who may use it to their benefit. For most of the time people try to rise by pulling others down … if only they would aim at rising at their own with their own skills/competencies/knowledge!
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    Practice patience. There is no alternative. The more patient you become the less is the stress and the happier your disposition.
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    Learn tact. It’s a prerequisite in all that you do … and it’s an end result of all that’s discussed in previous points. No one can teach how to be tactful but everyone needs to learn it to be successful and happy!

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Categories: Workplace Conflicts Coping and Issues