Office Politics: 3 Insightful Steps
Company culture can make certain employers appealing, but it’s not until you start the job that you really begin to see the workplace politics. In some cases, the politics don’t have a negative connotation. Some employers strive to make sure each employee is represented in the decision-making process. For other employers, there is a reliance on managers, and levels of management, to oversee progress and decisions.
For those companies where you report to a manager, there can be power struggles, sometimes making office politics a negative experience. The following are a few best practices to make sure you stay professional and successful while dealing with this aspect of the workplace.
- Manage Your Manager –When you start the job, spend time trying to ‘figure out’ your boss. Keep your progress up, but take mental notes about how they prefer to communicate. Do they call meetings frequently? Email often (even when they are nearby)? Call people individually into their office to discuss concerns? These will give you clues if they prefer to communicate openly, via email, or in private. Most importantly, help your manager succeed. Communicate with them to make sure you know what it is you are supposed to achieve, and don’t make your manager’s job harder. These include the basics as well: show up on time and solve more problems than you create. Once you prove to your manager you are a key player, opportunities can open up for you.
- Negativity Kills Productivity – Treat all colleagues with respect, and casual, brief breaks that include talking with colleagues can help energize you before heading back to work. While working full time, there is a reality that you may often be spending more time with colleagues than you are with your loved ones at home. This can make the workplace feel like a family as well- but approach this with caution. Develop meaningful relationships with colleagues you trust. Help each other succeed with constructive criticism and appreciation for their help. Avoid speaking negatively about the job or the workplace. There are many reasons for this: you may not know who can overhear you, you don’t want to get a reputation as a ‘gossip’ or negative person, and negativity often breeds negativity. Instead of having a conversation energize you, it can drain you, making you less productive once heading back to work. (Note: Serious issues, such as harassment or hostile work environments, consult HR or follow your company’s employee handbook. Just do not let everyday topics/management styles become a source for complaints.)
- Be Self-Aware – Emotional intelligence, being aware of your own emotions and controlling your reactions/how you express yourself, is crucial to workplace success. In team meetings or individual meetings with management, negative news may upset you, but controlling your reactions will give you the time to thoughtfully debate the issue before rushing to judgment. Remember: your manager may be sharing news they do not particularly like either, but they have their own pressures from above. Being self-aware can circle back to helping your manager succeed. When you do have concerns, there are proper times and places to address them. With your manager’s communication style in mind, take time to plan out what you want to say. Address your concerns relating to how this new development can affect the company or productivity, not just your own personal opinions.
Learning your manager’s communication style and figuring out how you can help them won’t happen overnight. Also, do not expect any immediate gratitude for this either. This would depend on your manager’s personality, and is not a guarantee in any position. If you end up becoming close friends with someone at the workplace, make sure your friendship doesn’t affect your work relationship. Keeping the two worlds separate can be a difficult line to walk. Emotional intelligence is also an ongoing process. Start by monitoring your own reactions and determining why specifically you are feeling a certain emotion before responding. There are certainly more scenarios you will encounter on the workplace but working on a few of the key items here will help contribute to your long-term success on the job.