It's often assumed that most people function in the office primarily based upon his or her own agenda; the result of which can often lead to secrets, lies, posturing, finagling, and backstabbing.
Office politics usually occur when people are insecure and the environment is not conducive to healthy communication, openness, and personal growth. People are people. Some aspect of politics will almost always occur. The question is how you as an individual will navigate and participate. Here is my approach, and more insights from my Inc. colleagues.
1. Set the standard.
You can only be a victim to office politics if you allow yourself to succumb. Lying and backstabbing aren't required skills for every company. If you run the company, establish a culture of truth and fairness. If you work for a company with values that don't match your own, find a place that suits you better.
2. Confront unsavory politics directly.
Whenever you get the sense political games are taking place, get the two parties together and talk about it. You'd be surprised by what a chilling effect that has on the rest of your team, at least where gossip and backstabbing and conflicting agendas are concerned. Office politics are like certain types of mushrooms: expose them to the harsh light of day and they tend to wither away. --Owner's Manual
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3. Don't worry too much-but act when you must.
Politics is a natural part of any office, and so long as no one gets hurt in the process, then it's not something you'll need to worry too much about. However, when people get hurt -- when one employee tries to make another employee look bad, or to hobble someone else's chances of career advancement -- then you've got to take action. Those who practice destructive office politics like to do their work in the shadows, hiding behind others. Shine a very bright light on anyone who practices destructive office politics and call them out whenever you encounter it. Don't allow rumors and innuendo to grow and fester--cut them off at the pass every time. --The Leadership Guy
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4. Be curious and mindful.
When you consider the root of office politics, most of it comes out of fear or greed. The fear of losing something or looking bad, or a desire for greater power, can drive a human being to behaviors that may not be the norm for them. As a leader, you must take a curious and mindful stance, rather than jump to conclusions or judge the individuals involved. Ask questions that will reveal their fears and put on your coach hat. Listen attentively to help both parties feel heard and validated. Once you understand their goals and concerns, agree to a joint course of action. --The Successful Soloist
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5. Be transparent about your communication.
Employees often attempt to create politics in small companies, especially when there are partners or owners with equal ownership or pull in the organization. They may go to each other with the same problem or issue to see if they can shore up support for their idea or position and potentially pit leadership against each other. The only way to prevent this from becoming a problem is by being upfront and honest about the fact that anything an employee shares with you, you are going to discuss with the others involved -- especially if it impacts your partner or senior leadership. Better yet, redirect the person to the individual or group they have an issue with for resolution. Offer to act as an arbitrator between the two parties if they can't come to an amicable resolution on their own. --Lean Forward
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