How Office Politics Can Be A Force For Good


    When one thinks of office politics, what often comes to mind is favoritism, back-stabbing, and cronyism – basically, all the negative aspects of office politics. Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of such treatment would likely swear that all office politics is bad.

    But the truth of the matter is that office politics is in itself neutral. They are simply strategies people adopt in the workplace in order to gain an advantage either for themselves or for an organisational cause. And when done right, office politics can actually contribute to the common good.

    Let’s take a look how.

    Positive Office Politics Can Be Used To… Serve a Greater Cause

    A manager can “create” positive office politics by building alliances with other departments and maintaining open communication among his team that’s geared towards achieving common goals.

    An example could be when a department needs to implement a necessary but unpopular project. Instead of forcing change through management decree alone, leaders with good political skill can leverage on existing relationships and goodwill to gather support for the cause.

    By maintaining open communication with managers and teams, it is possible to persuade staff members to accept and support what needs to be done. A successful outcome is more likely, when team members are fully onboard with an initiative.

    Positive Office Politics Can Be Used To… Create A Better Functioning Team

    Managers with good political skills can also foster a culture of open communication where employees feel free to seek out help and input for their projects.  Ultimately, an environment that respects and encourages each individual’s input, makes employees feel more valued within the organization. This also encourages them to buy into the greater vision, elevating their performance at work.

    That being the case, leaders should also make it a point to praise employees who did an excellent job in front of the team. Giving credit where credit is due can boost morale and when team members are motivated, they’ll be happy to come to work each day.

    How To Develop One’s Positive Political Savvy

    Management can train employees how to get what they want the right way and how to avoid the toxic work environment that comes with bad office politics.

    To do this, companies should instill the four key competencies of the positively political savvy as identified in a 2005 University of Florida study called Political Skill at Work. These are:

    • Social astuteness – This is the ability to read and anticipate situations and adapt your behaviour based on people and conditions around you. Politically savvy people tend to be perceptive observers and pay attention not only to what people say but also to their nonverbal behaviours to get a sense of how other people are feeling.
    • Interpersonal influence – Effective influencers build stronger interpersonal relationships and maintain their good rapport with others, which can make it easier to get that needed support for a project or cause. Influencers have good judgement and know when to assert themselves, which helps get results and cooperation among employees.
    • Networking ability – Networking is not just about handing out  business cards. Good networkers network to build friendships that can be relevant  to their work. They know when to ask for help and support and are willing to reciprocate, which then builds a positive office environment.
    • Sincerity – politically skilled employees have high levels of  integrity and are—or appear to be—sincere in their dealings, which can  then help maintain smoother interaction among colleagues. If you are not  sincere, colleagues will easily see right through you.

    Be the Change You Want to See

    As the study shows, a company and its employees are not totally helpless when it comes to shaping office politics into a force for good. Through the 4 key competencies, an organisation can build positive communication and relationship traits, but the change should start from each employee.

    As the famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi says, “be the change you want to see in this world”. No matter how bad office politics make you want to scream in pain and foam at the mouth, it’s always better to take the high road. Take all the bad behaviors and appalling attitudes that your colleagues have to offer and use those to improve your own ways, make things better at the workplace, and rise above petty politics. At the end of the day, you can take action from within and take control over the only person you can: yourself.

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