Office politics are no stranger to anyone in the workplace today. For those who are unfortunate enough to be caught in this toxic environment, it can make life a living hell.
Chances are you’ve encountered office politics sometime along in your career, and you’re looking for ways on how to deal with it. I want you to imagine this scenario for a second. Does this sound like something you or someone you know may be familiar with?
You walk into the office, drenched from the rain and before you’ve even had time to put down your umbrella, you’re already hearing people whisper quietly. Is it your imagination, or are they talking about you?
“Look what finally decided to show up.”
“He’s late again.”
“Won’t be long before the boss considers me for a promotion instead. Why does he even bother?”
You do your best to ignore the conversation, and head straight towards your desk, only to arrive and find your papers scattered everywhere, a stark difference from the carefully laid out papers and organized documents that you made before you left for the weekend. The culprit – a window left ajar, with the howls of wind and the downpour of rain blowing through even now as you stare in disbelief at the sight before you.
“Wow that’s a shame, it seems like someone forgot to close the window. Maybe next time we should be more careful?”
Corporate Office Politics Is Everywhere
The truth is that office politics and terrible work environments are becoming more prevalent, as a result of the political structure that is behind most corporate companies today. On one hand are eager employees that want to work hard, contribute meaningful results to the company and climb the corporate ladder, and on the other hand are those that don’t want others getting ahead of them. These kind of people are the ones who create office politics and drama, who don’t like it when others get ahead of them in life, and will do anything they can to prevent it from happening.
Office politics is very similar to something called ‘Crab Mentality’. If you put one crab in a bucket, it will manage to crawl out and escape. However, if you put a whole bunch of crabs together, not one crab will be able to find freedom. This is because when a crab begins to climb out of the bucket, the other crabs will do whatever it takes to pull the escaping crab back into the bucket. As a result, none of the crabs are able to climb up and escape to somewhere better – a very similar situation you’d encounter in a company where office politics run rampant and everyone is trying to pull each other down.
In order to understand how to deal with office politics, you need to understand where and why office politics exists in the first place.
How A Military Mindset Accidentally Created The Office Politics We See Today
Before society came to be what it is today, the history of humankind was bloody and ruthless. Wars, conflict, and battles were commonplace, with the average lifespan of a human being no older than 30 years old, and every day a struggle for survival.
To increase the likelihood of survival, people formed groups and divided responsibilities among their own, with those that displayed outstanding leadership skills and intelligence given the responsibility of overseeing those who were not as competent. These people would give orders to everyone else, and ensured they were carried out properly. The result being an orderly system where each person was part of something that was bigger, allowing them to overcome larger obstacles than if they worked individually.
Today, this ranking system is still prevalent in various systems around us today – such as the government, military, royalty and even in business. However, when this same system is applied to an environment where each and every person possesses outstanding qualities and has the potential to display leadership abilities, competition ensues.
From Battling The Enemy To Battling Your Coworkers
The system that we as humans used many years ago to win wars and battles are the same principles and tactics used in business today. And while business may be war, your company culture should not feel the same way.
In a business, highly desirable roles such as CEO, Boss, Manager and Supervisor are given more rewards in the form of compensation, freedom and comfort. These people are earn the highest salaries, are given the benefit of working when they want and where they want, and have the authority to order others around.
But where there is a desire, there is also jealousy. In a company with office politics, each person’s own interests come first, at the expense of everyone else and includes the company they work for. When there is a position in high demand, it creates competition among coworkers that are looking to achieve it.
Unlike healthy competition, this competition breeds jealousy, contempt, anger, and negatively impacts everyone involved. Instead of working together to achieve a common goal, each person works to sabotage everyone else, and position themselves as superior to everyone else.
Office politics is bad news for a company – it increases costs, causes delays and creates doubt among team members, eventually bringing the entire company down. That’s why one of the core philosophies on Team Dan Lok is that every team member knows their responsibilities and expectations, in order to create a company culture that benefits everyone.
How to Fight a War of Office Politics
So how do you survive corporate office politics without losing your integrity, happiness and peace of mind?
The answer is: You can’t.
In any environment that you find yourself in, there will always be some form of politics. You can’t control how other people act, and you can’t control the mindset that they have. All you can do is focus on what you do have control over: Yourself.
You can think of office politics as a battlefield where one small mistake could cost you your job. Be smart, be strategic, and most of all, know your enemy and know yourself. A good general knows it is inevitable that some battles are lost and some are won. What matters is that in the end, the war is won.
And to win a war, sometimes it’s necessary to make a few sacrifices, and let the enemy gain a few advantages while you are building up your plan to strike back with full force. So like a good general, here are a few tips you can use to survive the war of office politics and come out in one piece.
1. Mind your own business
If a war of office politics breaks out, the best thing you can do is mind your own business. Be professional in how you conduct yourself, and remain calm. Your coworkers will be the ones to tire themselves out, and eventually be their own downfall, as they will be too busy sabotaging their coworkers and not spending their time getting any work done. When it comes time for company review, they’ll be at risk for underperformance.
2. Form a peace treaty with neutral coworkers
While office politics can have devastating consequences, not every employee desires to have a 100 year war every time they show up to work. Seek out coworkers who do not share the same mindset as those who are responsible for creating the drama and office politics, and form a mutual agreement with them that you will act in a manner that is agreeable to both of you. Most likely, if you are fed up with the toxic environment around you, other people feel the same way. Befriend them and ask for their support in times of need.
3. Be the peacemaker
Where there is conflict, there are always at least two opposing forces. For example, this could be two managers that are always disagreeing with one another. Or two departments that dislike one another personally. The smart thing to do in a situation like this is to not take sides. Focus on the business objectives, and find ways to come to a compromise. Become the person whom everyone trusts to resolve conflicts; the peacemaker. By not taking anyone’s side, you remain neutral and build trust with others as someone who is honest and biased towards any particular person or group.
4. Befriend influential decision makers
Decision makers are those who hold power and influence over many people in a company. These people are most likely supervisors and managers, people who would be a good choice to have on your side. For example, let’s say that someone in the accounting department dislikes you and acts in an unprofessional manner whenever you submit a request, a. In order to overcome this conflict, talk to the manager of the accounting department, whom you are friends with about your request and if they could look into why it has been delayed. You may not be able to tell the accountant what to do, but the manager certainly can.
5. Do NOT engage in gossip
It can be tempting to say something bad about someone you dislike, especially behind their backs. But who can you actually trust? You never know who may overhear the conversation or who their friends are. All it takes is one misplaced word, before both your reputation and your job blows up in your face. Avoid fueling the flames of office politics, for the ones who play with fire end up being burned.
6. Find out the rules of engagement
Many companies have their own different set of cultures, their own code of unspoken rules. For example, in Japanese culture it is an unspoken rule to not leave the workplace before your superiors do, as that is considered a sign of disrespect. While such a rule may not officially be one in the company handbook, if it’s something that everyone abides by and obeys, you may have to compromise and comply like everyone else does if you are looking to avoid drama in the workplace.
7. Listen and observe
If you are new to a company, lay low and observe your other coworkers. Watch how they behave, who they interact with, and how they speak. Observing people allows you to learn what is acceptable, and what isn’t, as well as who you should look out for. In an environment where trust may be hard to earn, sometimes what someone says may not be how they act. Watch their actions and behaviors, instead of believing what they say.
8. Manage conflict effectively
If conflict inevitably occurs between you and another person, the best thing you can do is to remain calm. Don’t take anything they say personally, and try to find ways to understand their perspective and defuse the situation. Sometimes we may read the situation wrong, or feel like someone is being offensive when they aren’t, that’s why it’s always important to remain professional and calm even when we are under attack.
9. Move to a better environment
You can’t control the people around you, and you can’t control their actions or decisions. But what you are in control of, is yourself. Sometimes, the best decision is to walk away when it’s necessary. If office politics are causing a hindrance at work, it may be time to quit and find another company. Your environment is one of the biggest factors that influence whether or not you succeed in life. If you find yourself surrounded by crabs that are pulling you down, find a different group to surround yourself with.
Office politics is a war in which no one wins. If you’re stuck in a toxic environment, here are a few things you can do to protect yourself
First, you must know what kind of battle you are fighting. Who are the people creating all the drama? Who are the influential decision makers? How should you behave? Your response towards when things happen is going to influence how much more easily or difficult things become. Mind your own business, think strategically, and act the way a general at war would.
Second, understand where it comes from. Is it jealousy that creates the conflict between people? Or is it something else, something more personal? If people are out to get you, if they’re sabotaging your work and making it difficult for you to progress in your company, think about what actions you can take to achieve a desired outcome. If a particular person is purposely delaying your work, you can speak to an influential decision maker to get around the problem, instead of confronting it directly. “You must be formless, shapeless, like water.” – Bruce Lee
Third, ask yourself if it’s worth it. Is your health, and emotional well-being worth it? If you’re in a hopeless situation with no way out, walking away can be the best thing you can do. By choosing the decision to walk away, you don’t have to engage yourself in a war you had no intention of participating in, and may even discover an environment or company that is much more enjoyable to be in.
So What Can You Do?
Perhaps after reading all of this you feel walking away is the best option. But before you go looking for another job where the culture may be just as bad or perhaps even worse – consider an alternative.
What if there was a way you could earn a generous income, without working in a company with a corporate ladder, and without facing any sort of office politics? Where there is no one you’d have to deal with except influential decision makers who value what you do because you are able to generate them amazing results on a consistent basis?
If you want to make a generous income without having to travel to an office, without having to deal with drama or office politics, and without having to suck up to a boss or manager, you can apply for a free consultation session with one of our High Income Advisors. They will help you get clarity on how you can make all that happen. If you’re ready to take back control of your work environment, apply for a free consultation session here.