Plato said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” His philosophy applies today to the current workplace environment. Individuals who steer clear of the political game at work run the risk of anonymity and not having any sway in momentum and decision making processes. However, if an individual is overly involved in workplace politics, he or she can experience negative impacts which may adversely affect work performance and long term career goals. You need to find a balance between the two extremes. This article will discuss how to channel workplace politics for success.
Recognizing that workplace politics exist is a starting point to the journey. One of the most valuable lessons to learn is that you need to find a way to make workplace politics work to your advantage without hurting others. The list below details several tactics you can implement in your daily work environment to help you succeed.
1. Take Stock of the Balance of Power
Workplace politics does not always follow the basic hierarchy of the company. The first step is to take stock of the specific situation in your work environment. You need to maintain a focused and unbiased eye and chart the political power at work. Review the factors below to get a clearer picture of the situation.
- Pinpoint which individuals are well-respected
- Identify the mentors and encouragers
- Classify the genuine influencers
- Ascertain silent authority figures
- Determine who is the actual company “brains”
2. Recognize the Social Atmosphere
After you ascertain the specific balance of power in your workplace environment, you must recognize the social atmosphere. As with the first step, you need to look beneath the surface to make certain that you are correctly grasping the actual social situation. Respond to the following questions.
- Have you noticed any cliques or “in groups”?
- Which individuals easily work together?
- Are there individuals dealing with conflicts?
- Which people have the most issues with keeping peace?
- Are relationships based on rapport, admiration or manipulation?
- What is the balance of power flow amongst colleagues?
3. Learn How to Cultivate Genuine Relationships
You now know the current state of the balance of power and the social atmosphere. Now you need to learn how to cultivate genuine relationships and begin to build your own network. Some suggestions are listed below.
- Your relationships must cross all boundary lines in the workplace, including bosses etc.
- You need to put fear aside and get to know the political powerhouses at work
- Begin to cultivate genuine relationships with the informal powerhouses as well
- Don’t fall into the trap of empty words, but rather build upon trust and admiration
- Don’t associate exclusively with only one group, but include everyone as friends
- Being involved in various social networks with colleagues gives your political sway
4. Utilize Political & Social Networks
It is important to continue to build upon your political and social networks in the workplace. Learn how to listen more intently and how to respond and not react. The purpose of building relationships in this regard is to help you gain political power. Now, this does not mean you become a “tyrant” and lord your power over people. You are trying to network with others in order to stimulate success for both you and your colleagues. This is where positive rather than negative politicking comes into play. Utilize your political and social networks in the following ways.
- Create opportunities to showcase your talents and those of your team members
- Utilize colleagues for networking in order to gather vital information
- Take the time to work together and mend broken relationships
- Find ways to draw attention to your achievements while making management shine
5. Be the Master of Your Own Domain
It is important that you never fan the flame of dissension. Rather, find ways to become skilled at conflict resolution. Seize every opportunity to defuse negative politicking and turn it around into a positive experience for the entire team and company. The following suggestions provide ways to become a master of your own domain.
- Maintain a professional and well-mannered attitude at all times
- Learn different personality types and better understand peoples’ intentions
- Ignore the gossip mill and focus on positive politicking and career advancement
- Become a better mediator and don’t allow conflict to hamper your goals
- Hold yourself accountable to a high ethical standard and maintain your honour
- Embrace a positive and self-confident attitude that circumvents immaturity
- Learn how to disagree with management in a respectful and mature manner
Whether you’re ready for it or not, workplace politics are going to occur. If you utilize wise politicking you will find a way to succeed and accomplish what you set out to do. You can do this without compromising your integrity. When you cultivate this skillset for positive purposes, you can diffuse problems that arise from those who abuse its power.
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