When working for a large corporation, one cannot avoid office politics. While many people would advise employees to stay out of it, this is not the best approach. One needs to learn to work the system of the office to advance their career and get on with colleagues or supervisors. Staying professional from the very first moment of getting the job, is the best policy. Below you will find a few tips on how to handle office politics in the corporate world.
1. Listen to People and Their Actions
Hiding your head in the sand is the worst possible tactic. Instead, listen to what is going on, without interfering. You will find out more about people’s motivations, preferences, likes, and dislikes than by engaging in gossip. Remain critical and always ask yourself why people act and react in a certain way- but always keep your questions in your head.
2. Don't Gossip
You will certainly hear about who did what on the last office party, but that doesn’t mean that you have to help spreading the rumours. At the end of the day, all that matters is how you get on with certain colleagues in the office, and life outside of work should be considered as gossip. Politely listen to stories, but do not react to them, either way. While according to a recent Entrepreneur Magazine article, not all gossip is bad, still, malicious rumours can easily create a negative work environment.
3. Keep Your Secrets
One of the greatest sources of friction in the office is unequal pay. Keep your salary details for yourself. Even though many corporations’ policy forbids disclosing your pay, people tend to ignore this. Do not even give any colleagues a hint. Chances are you are earning more than at least one person on the floor. If they find out, they will hate you forever, even after they get a pay rise and take home more than you. When they ask, simply avoid a straight answer: refer to policies, or tell them that it is hardly enough. Likewise, do not tell people about low-paid jobs you did before working in the office: they will use them against you. Keep your private life and past for yourself.
4. Reduce the Risk of Becoming a Target
Being friends with people in the office is allowed in some companies, but one needs to be careful. You need to choose your work friend wisely, so you don’t end up being in the center of attention, when you break up with your partner, get drunk on Christmas Day, or become addicted to Candy Crush. Maintain professionalism with colleagues, and make sure that you don’t appear to be flirting with anyone.
5. Don't Take Sides
When there is an argument or a fight in the team, try to stay out of it. If you take sides, you will make short term friends and long term enemies. Let people settle disagreements without dragging yourself into them. Do not try to negotiate, as both parties will think you are defending the other person. This is clearly a no-win situation. A recent The Guardian article advises office workers to remain open, but avoid making enemies. Try to find ways to work out problems, but avoid being stuck in the middle of a fight. Try to praise both parties for their strengths, and do not criticize anybody.
See Also: 10 Reasons Not to Gossip at Work.
Maneuvering through office politics is not easy. Listening to people, understanding their motivations, and avoiding gossip are the best policies. Being on the right side of people is important for advancing one’s career. Keep your private life out of the office, and have a positive attitude towards everyone. Give out plenty of praise, and try to build on people’s strengths, instead of trying to take advantage of their weaknesses.
How would you handle office politics at your work? Let us know in the comments section below.