Imagine this. You are at a meeting with all of your colleagues. You have some really great ideas on a problem that the team has been facing. You present your idea, however, it is quickly shut down by a colleague who is then backed by the manager. It felt as though the idea was not even taken into consideration. No one asked for further details. No one’s curiosity peaked.
A few months later the idea, YOUR idea is brought up by that same colleague that shut it down. Once again, the manager backs her and the idea is implemented. Everyone sings praises of the great job your colleague did in thinking up this idea. All the time, you sit there completely frustrated, angry, and sadden at how this happened.
When a situation like the one just explained happens, usually there is office politics at work. Literally, the politics behind the scene are working extra hard. Most of us have experienced a similar situation. Often, we have left feeling defeated, and anxious towards the next encounter with that colleague. This is why understanding office politics is so important to our career growth with any organization.
What is Office Politics?
The term office politics refers to the relationships individuals have with each other and with people who have positions of power. A broad scope of things come into play when discussing office politics. Relationships are built off communications, emotional attachments, and the amount of time taken to build the relationship.
Persons who understand that relationships are essential to professional growth take the time to engage with one another. Especially those who hold power. Most people ignore those who hold less power and turn all their attention to those who can advance them in the workplace to a new promotion, or a better paying position. In their minds, those who hold less power are not worth spending time on.
Why is Office Politics Even a Thing?
As you can imagine, office politics do hold some benefits. When situations occur where you missed a deadline, or you made a mistake on an important project, the relationships that you have worked hard for often can help you. Provided that you do not abuse the precious gift of forgiveness.
Make no mistake, if you continue to abuse the forgiveness that your boss or manager has given you, their patience will soon wear down to nothing. You will no longer be able to count on that person to back you when you are in need of help.
In the example above we see how both office politics can be positive and negative. The colleague used her influence over her manager to turn down your idea and then later pitched it as her own. This is an example of how others will react to you when you have something valuable that they do not. It is especially true when faced with the potential of outdoing others in front of those who you can potentially win to your side, and can give you a boost in your career path.
Make no mistake, you should tread lightly around those who continuously show signs of passive aggressive behavior. These individuals are the most dangerous in the workplace.
Can You Avoid Office Politics?
The short answer is yes. You can shut yourself off from interacting with others in order to maintain your position. However, it will cost you your professional growth.
Isolation is one of the worst things you can do in a professional setting. This will make you an easy target for becoming a scapegoat. Because you are not connected, there will be no one to support you should the situation arise in which you are blamed for something that was not your fault. Although it may provide comfort at the time, you should never make this a permanent option.
Obtaining and maintaining relationships at work is key to any type of success. Even individuals who work for themselves understand how important it is to maintain relationships with vendors, business associates, colleagues, and other organizations.
I do not want to promote the use of individuals here. People should not be viewed as a means to an end. In business, we should view relationships as a baby that needs to be fed, nurtured, and cared for. The way you conduct yourself in a professional setting has long term effects. People have long memories and will remember the slight from 3 months ago.
How to deal…
In order to continue to live through harsh political climates at work, you will need to:
About a year ago, I was researching this topic. I found that most blogs encourage their readers to leave a toxic work environment. While this can be an option taken into consideration, there are also circumstances in which a person may wish to stay. Because of this, I commend those who are currently struggling through negativity at work.
Has there been a time that you felt completely hopeless at work?
Is there a time where you watched office politics unfold?
Was it positive or negative?
Comment below to share your experiences.
Yaritza Ellison has been an nurse since 2010. She has been essential to the healing process of many and seeks to continue to do so. Her passion for mental health and self help literature has lead her to launch justyari.org, where she aspires to coach young ladies navigating through work-life balance.