If your family is anything like mine, games and competition rule family gatherings. It doesn’t take long before someone introduces a new game and we trustingly allow “cousin Joe” to give us the rundown of the rules and Let the Games Begin. At some point, well into the game, cousin Joe laughingly exclaims; “Oh yea, I forgot to tell you…” And he imparts some crucial piece of information that you absolutely need to win the game.
Enter office politics, the game with no written rules. The game where the rules change based on who’s playing. The game that is maddening and that causes total frustration at unfair treatment. And dare I say, the game that has absolutely nothing to do with the job you are paid to do.
The definition of office politics varies from one source to the next, but primarily it is about power, influence, advantage, ego and maybe even jealousy. It is about vying for the attention of decision makers and owning influencing power; when one person has it, and another wants it… let’s just say, it can get ugly. And if you’re not careful, you can get ugly too.
From the sideline, office politics look something like this:
- Everyone plays from a different play book
- The rules are constantly changing
- Back-stabbing and undermining flourishes
- People being promoted don’t seem to be the most qualified
- Positive, productive people are kicked to the curb
It can be downright exhausting.
Office politics are everywhere, according to research, even on the playground. I would dare surmise that at the root of this game – all games – is the necessity for love, acceptance and an essential need to feel valued.
Acknowledging this idea may allow us to approach things a little differently. Foremost, don’t let the game bring out your ugly. Instead, strategically master a mindful, positive approach to office politics.
- Don’t sell yourself short – be true to your own values and your personal non-negotiables
- Consciously choose how you will react – In all situations, we have control over two things and two things only; what we do and how we react to what others do
- Listen with an intent to understand. Learn to overlook trivial differences and position yourself to find the win, win in the situation
- Create a circle of influence beyond your immediate department
- Stay neutral. Build solid relationships and a powerful, diverse network of allies
- Be careful who you confide in; if someone gossips to you, they also gossip about you
For me, I lack a love of the game and when that hurts me, I realize I have not done a good job paying attention to the reality of my workplace. I firmly believe that, in the end, truth prevails, good triumphs over evil, the good girl gets the guy (and vice versa) and giving your absolute best returns rewards and promotions. And when it doesn’t, it wasn’t meant to be and there is an amazing Next Best Step just up ahead.