I’m Not Good at the Workplace Politics
When others use their authority, influence, and status for personal self-interest, they are operating politically. Examples of negative workplace politics are plentiful: Kissing up to a leader to gain an advantage, badmouthing a colleague to harm a reputation, avoiding a peer who is out of favor, taking credit for work a colleague has created, withholding information so others don’t succeed.
Such demonstrations of workplace politics are impossible to eliminate and dangerous to ignore. Political acts are attempts to gain personal advantage by shifting the power in a relationship. Though they often remain hidden from view, office politics are intentional and serve the interests of those that promote them. When team members ignore them or choose not to respond to them, they believe they can avoid the politics. This is akin to avoiding raindrops in a cloudburst. Office politics are everywhere. You can’t sit them out.
The question is not how to avoid them, but rather how to employ them positively. Becoming politically intelligent is about understanding the intersection of influence and relationships. The perception and quality of your performance depends on both.
When you develop a strategic relationship with someone who advocates for you and helps you get things done, you, too, are engaged in workplace politics. Building connections through a team or organization is what good people do to create job satisfaction and collaborative spirit.
The same political efforts that stand out positively can turn corrosive when they are used to harm or interfere with others. Promoting your good work, or leveraging the influence of others, is a world apart from getting ahead through manipulation and putting others down.
By remaining professional and avoiding cliques and gossip, you can stay above the dark side of politics. When you see negative politics at work, you can help make the workplace better by not fueling the fire and joining in. Stand firm in the face of coercive politics by reminding yourself and others of your core values.
Simply insisting that colleagues stop playing games and just do the work is naïve. The work doesn’t get done without leveraging relationships and influencing others to support it. It's high time to stop ignoring workplace politics and pretending they are what other people do.
Politics are required for organizations to succeed. Whether you promote positive or negative politics is about the choices you make to advance ideas and people. Negative politics drain energy and can make the office a very unpleasant place to work. Your job is to stay above the fray and work to influence ethically, without harming others. Capable colleagues don’t put people down. They lift them up.