While the phrase ‘workplace politics’ has a negative connotation, it is a reality for many employees. It describes a range of concepts, from networking and team-orientated goals to gossip, rivalry and personal conflicts.
While nobody wants to be labelled as a ‘push-over’, few people are inclined to mimic destructive behaviour. Luckily, dealing with workplace politics doesn’t have to be a choice between these two extremes. It’s important to evaluate the range of options available to you.
Here are 9 simple habits you can incorporate into your work-life.
1. Be a good Listener
Being a good listener has two major advantages. The more information you absorb about the networks and relationships operating in the workplace, the more equip you are to respond to difficult situations.
Learn how your colleagues view each other and their work environment. Cliques can sometimes be a dominant part of workplace culture. Recognise the friendships and alliances formed and how they impact on collective decision-making. This can give you insight to the different levels of formal and informal power.
The other flip side to being a good listener is that people like to be listened to. A colleague is more likely to form a positive opinion about someone who demonstrates an interest in what they have to say.
2. Understand the Work Culture
A clearer understanding of what yourself and others are trying to achieve can boost your chance of achieving your goals. If someone suggests a new idea, ask yourself :
Who benefits from this? , Who might be disadvantaged? , Does your colleague have their eye on a promotion? Get into the habit of asking yourself these questions but realising that your analysis of the situation might not always be correct.
Identify individuals who are trying to gain recognition, while also taking notice of those who are the least expressive. Everyone will have a range of motivations- both personal and business-related. It’s not always going to be straight forward.
3. Expand Your Networks
In many workplaces, friendship groups are quick to form. It can be hard to step outside your comfort zone and interact with different people.
But getting to know people across a wide range of factions is an effective way of boosting your ability to influence decisions. Aim to find common grounds with individuals across each department.
Approach and welcome new staff members. If you’re balancing your career with other commitments, after- work drinks and other social gatherings might feel like a disruption to your schedule.
However, these events provide a perfect opportunity to get to know others. Try to find the time to attend one or two of these events on a regular basis.
4. Avoid Gossip
Most people are guilty of gossip in some form or another. Human beings like to be understood.
On the surface, sharing your discontent for a particular person’s behaviour can feel like a safe way to affirm your feelings. But gossip is not a not a constructive response to conflicts.
While listening to others bicker can be a useful way of collecting information, participating can backfire and damage your reputation. It also has consequences on a wider scale.
Author and researcher Shawn Archor argues that team members’ feelings about one another have a significant effect on the team’s success.
Contributing to gossip sessions could create unnecessary conflicts and is of no long-term benifit to yourself or others. If there is a general consensus among yourself and others that a colleague is acting in a nasty or unconstructive way, the person should be approached politely.
Many experts suggest that confronting bullies privately in a respectful manner should be the first course of action. Be careful not to speak on another’s behalf without their consent.
5. Learn to Speak Up
Knowing when and how to speak up is crucial. You don’t want to be the come off as arrogant by criticising the way everything is done or constantly suggesting improvements with little background knowledge. But it is important to demonstrate that you are engaged with the issues at hand.
If you strongly disagree with an idea that has been made open for discussion, always take a respectful and diplomatic approach.
It is possible that others may have similar concerns but feel uncomfortable communicating them. Therefore by speaking up, you might insight contribution from others who normally remain silent.
6. Ensure you have Visibility
Getting noticed can further your opportunities to have your voice heard. Some people enjoy standing out from the crowd, while others cringe at the thought. But most people feel they deserve some form of recognition for their hard work.
The challenge is building the confidence and communication skills to highlight your accomplishments. Many people fear coming off as obnoxious, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
Idealist editor Alison Jones shares methods of bringing up achievements in meetings with your boss by framing them within a wider discussion about team progress.
She suggests reporting on the success of a particular project and what this means for the organisation, before mentioning your specific tasks that you performed successfully.
Taking on extra responsibilities wherever possible is another great way of gaining recognition among managers and senior staff.
It is also valuable to start a journal to track your goals and accomplishments? This ensures that you are always prepared to provide examples of your contributions when asked.
7. Focus on Business Objectives
Everyone is influenced by a range of personal motivations, such as their career goals and relationships with their peers. But employers want someone they can trust to act in the best interest of the organisation.
You can make this principle work in your favour by finding compatibilities between your goals and the ‘greater good’ of the organisation.
Ideally, you want to be seen as a team player, and not as someone acting out of pure self-interest or aligning all of your decisions with a small group of friends.
Make sure you can justify your ideas and actions on the grounds of how it contributes to the aims of the organisation.
8. Be Helpful
Helping others is a great way to build trust and loyalty. While you should continue to prioritise your own tasks, there are often things you can do for others that won’t take too much of your time.
For example, if someone needs a lift in your direction, if a co-worker is struggling with new software, or if a photo-copier needs fixing, sparing a few minutes is well worthwhile.
This strengthens your connections with others and helps establish yourself as a highly valuable member of the team.
9. Stay Rational
During a hectic week, a combination of work-related stress and personal issues can cloud your sense of judgement. Do not allow tension to build up or resort to sudden outbursts- you want your thoughts to be taken seriously.
When proposing a new idea or expressing a critical view on a topic, ask consider how your words and actions will be perceived by other staff. Most of this comes down to factors such as timing, delivery and body language.
It is perfectly human to feel impatient and annoyed over immediate differences. But practicing refrain and deciding what issues really matter put you in a better position to have more impact on the bigger picture.