HOW TO NAVIGATE THE POLITICS IN THE OFFICE
When Keziah* got her dream job, she was intent on working hard to achieve her goals as a top marketer. Her job involved in leading a sales team of seven to get more business for the company. One her first day, Joyce, a colleague befriended her and was very helpful in helping her understand the office culture.
Immediately Keziah was called by the boss and directed to follow one of the big accounts that due for renewal in two months time. She invested many hours and much resources following up this deal and finally the deal came through. Keziah was then urgently sent to Rwanda for an international meeting.
On her return to the county after three days, Keziah called the client to ask when she could pick the cheque. She was informed that the cheque had already been picked three days ago – the same day she flew out. Joyce went and picked the cheque. She was informed that the cheque had been picked by Joyce on authorization from their boss. This sense of betrayal that she felt was so deep, made worse by the fact that her boss had stabbed her in the back. Should she quit so soon after joining the company?
Office politics is common in many offices and professionals need to know how to handle it. Every human organization – family, office or country will have some level of politics. This involves the use of power and manipulation to achieve one’s ends. Offices are a potent breeding ground for politics because they bring together money, talent and power.
The most common factors in office politics are competing camps, gossips and favourites who enjoy preferential treatment from the boss. Some staff members always know who is being promoted or sacked, they get less punishment that everyone when they do the same king of mistakes and they always seem to have a way of getting the boss support what they want.
For many people, office politics is a poisoned well that they would hate to drink from. However, the reality of the modern workplace is that you cannot avoid workplace politics. The best approach is to know what to do and what not to do, so that office politics works for you or at least does not harm you. Here are a few strategies to consider:
Expect it: The saying that for a worker to expect no politics in a workplace is like a man who walks through a field and thinks that the bull will not attack him because he is a vegetarian. Every office will have some degree of politics so expect it and learn to live with it.
Written word: Nothing saves a job or career more than having a written record. If you believe a matter will come back to haunt you, make sure you keep a record of the matter, either via e-mail or document. Documentation effectively records your achievements so that they cannot be hijacked by unscrupulous colleagues who then use them to advance their interests at work
Deliver on your work: when you consistently deliver high quality work, it becomes more difficult for the boss to take sides against you. Most reasonable bosses want workers who consistently deliver high quality work and will overlook a great deal of backstabbing to defend a good worker.
Be alert: if you are vigilant enough, you can tell the undercurrents of a workplace and possible use them to your advantage. Your office culture is mostly dictated by the leaders- past and present – of the organization. Identify what type of culture exists in your workplace. For example, some bosses will not excuse if you if you are unprepared for a meeting even if you are late. Others want you smart and presentable more than anything else. Don’t ignore attending an office function because the boss said it is optional; find out how seriously such things are taken and act accordingly. As many workers realize, a dismissal letter is not written on one day but over a long period of time.
Invest in people: many humans will be hesitant to fight against someone who they feel adds value to their life. When you share knowledge, help a colleague in problems you are planting seeds of loyalty, the fruits of which will one day come back to you.
These strategies are useful but we urge you to find out what works out in your organization. A sound knowledge and a good dose of common sense will enable you to navigate the choppy waters of office politics so that you arrive at your destination in one piece – and in peace.
* not her real name