Workplace politics do not have to be negative, underhanded tactics

2012-12-02T00:00:00Z Workplace politics do not have to be negative, underhanded tacticsBy Bob Moulesong Times Correspondent
December 02, 2012 12:00 am  • 

One does not have to run for an elected office to be immersed in politics. Politics simply refers to the dynamics and struggles for power. Most relationships involve some kind of back-and-forth play for power.

Around the workplace, where people with conflicting goals have to get along and careers are at stake, politics thrives.

Whether it's a struggle for control of the lunchroom or getting a promotion, workplaces are notorious political battlegrounds. Even for those workers to tend to mind their own business, politics seeps through cubicle walls and saturates the workplace. According to most experts, no workplace is immune to struggles for power.

The truth is that if workers wish to foster good working relationships, get things done or get ahead, experts concur that they should actively and consciously engage in office politics.

Does this mean that workers have to get their hands dirty to succeed in the business world?

Workplace politics gets a bad name from the people who are most known for playing it. Everyone knows the type who are corrupt, manipulative, insincere, who vie for praise and promotions. Workplace politics can lend itself to power-hungry brownnosers and vicious behavior. But that doesn't mean individual workers have to make unethical decisions to play the game effectively.

Some workers take to the workplace politics naturally. Usually, they are the ones who are irresistibly likeable and don't appear to have a manipulative bone in their bodies. They always seem to get people to gladly cooperate on projects.

For others, actively playing the politics game is uncomfortable and feels inherently insincere.

Regardless of which category an individual worker falls into, it helps to learn how the politics work. At least it could clear up common misperceptions about the practice and help to reevaluate motivations and tactics.

· Whether a worker wants to get things done, improve a professional reputation or just make the workplace a happy place to work, it's a good idea to foster good relationships with coworkers. Although it's impossible to please everybody, reaching across to the person on the other side of the cubicle wall has some big advantages.

·  Expand the sphere of friends and acquaintances so that they can be called on for help in the future. Networking plays a big part in surviving workplace politics.

· Even if the next link above is not in management, a worker never knows who has influence with decision-makers. Networking is the best way to start a professional relationship. Other workers will be glad to reciprocate and return the favor later. It’s a great way to establish a solid reputation as a team player.

· Due to generation gaps, different interests, various departments and levels of management, office workers inevitably divide into factions and cliques. Their resemblance to other types of cliques does not go unnoticed. Experts advise against associating with just one group. Instead, it's best to network across the board. Workers can form alliances with a variety of groups without alienating others.

· Then there are the coworkers who don't want to partner with anyone and seem to insist on making others look bad. Instead of sinking down to their level and risk entering the morally gray area of negative workplace politics, it’s better to confront the person calmly and rationally. If this doesn't work, that's when having allies around the workplace helps, as they might be able to issue a warning when a coworker is using underhanded tactics.

· It's tempting to make friends with coworkers by sharing the dirt on everyone else, but this isn't a good habit. Indulging in gossip will probably come back around to haunt most workers. It's considered unethical to perpetuate rumors that could damage someone's reputation.

· Knowing what's going on in the workplace can help workers to understand the power structure and influences in the office. Listening without contributing negative comments can be beneficial to achieving that understanding.

Workplace politics are a fact of life, even though many workers consider it insignificant or downright petty. Many workers will rant about what they feel are dirty workplace politics.

However, for better or worse, workplace politics are considered extremely important. Workers who are happy and don't care to boost themselves up the corporate ladder should keep in mind that workplace politics affect day-to-day dynamics.

It's so important that the category of organizational politics has blossomed into its own field of study within psychology. The distribution of power and the appearance of fairness in the workplace impact how satisfied employees are with their jobs.

It is how the topic is approached and treated that will make the difference between a team player and a doomsayer.

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