What the actual… is going on with all the office politics right now?

What is it with the amount of workplace politics that seem to be happening everywhere? Politics are hard to cope with at times. Until you really understand what is going on, that is. The below might help. 

Firstly though, this blog was prompted by a trend that is showing up in my coaching conversations that is around how stressful office politics can be. And there really is a lack of understanding of why people form alliances or groups to increase their own personal or professional power. When you look at it from a psychological viewpoint, why wouldn’t you play politics, if it helps you get ahead. Because it makes you look like a twit, that’s why. And because it is not fair on the humans that can’t understand why you favour some people and not others, and why some get the royal and special treatment, when others don’t. 

And you usually only really get to understand office politics when you have made a decision that offends someone, who then rallies the posse in support of why it was such a bad decision. Or you might say something to someone who is aligned with someone else, or who is related to so and so, or who only spends the training budget on one team, so don’t bother asking.  

The two things about office politics are that; they’re generally not process related, they’re people or power related, and they create a stressful working environment. It’s hard to create conscious control when you’re always on guard for what you might say that might get back to someone else, right? And it affects people’s ability to advance their career and get ahead. Business News Daily notes that: 

“Politics is bubbling over into nearly every aspect of our lives; and the office, it seems, is not immune. Research from Robert Half’s Accountemps revealed that political discord plays a significant role in today’s office life. 

Overall, 55% of employees say they partake at least somewhat in office politics, with most of those doing so to advance their careers. The study found that 76% of workers believe that office politics affect their efforts to get ahead, an increase of 20% within four years.” 

Business News Daily

So, what can you do if you’re working in a political work environment?  

Accept it 
Reconcile with yourself that there are things and people outside of your control (sorry if that is too blunt or too boring or too hard). There are some things at work that we just can’t change, that we must live with (or leave). Once you have accepted it and understand that some people are just political by nature (or nurture) and that they will act like that, regardless of what you say or think. Once you have gotten your head around the fact that some people are not great at doing human stuff (google the Dark Triad for more information on personality types that might be prone to this type of behaviour).  

Stay in control 
This should be self-explanatory, but with all the other pressures out there right now, I am hearing from my coaching clients that politics is like – another stressor – and sometimes the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. I get it. It can be the thing that sets you off, especially when the politician thinks they are putting one over you. Watch your self-talk and watch your emotional state – it will come out in your behaviour, even if you don’t think it does.  

Work with it 
And I mean that in the right way. If you can use the situation to your advantage… without compromising your values and your dignity… go right ahead. If you need to get a decision made, and you think the grapevine will help you. Go right ahead, I say. This point is not so much a ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, rather it’s an ‘anything that is done legally, morally, and ethically can’t go too wrong’. Remember to have the right intent. If you hurt others, to get your way, you are becoming complicit in the politics themselves. 

If I had only two words to help you deal with office politics, these are the two words I would share with you. Over-communicate. Yes. Over-communicate (you need to hear those two words seven times for it to sink apparently, or so org psychologists tell us). I won’t write it seven times. Maybe read them seven times either quietly, or out aloud. If you read them aloud, and others ask, share this post with them, in case they are struggling too. But what does it mean to over-communicate? It means this – and I cannot emphasise how important this is – in case you haven’t noticed – think before you act.  

Ask yourself this question ‘who will be affected, or who will be interested, or impacted by what I am about to do’. The decision or the action. Over-communicating means being ahead of important communication and decisions, so that you can ring the person first. Email them, to let them know what you are up to. When someone asks you to stop over-communicating, you will know you are doing it right! Over-communicate. And you can use this strategy in general terms, if you want to, depending on your business, your leader, and your team. But please be in front of the game on any big decisions or actions. It will help (and I got it in seven times – yay)! 

Stay clear 
Yes, this is the hard one. Hard, not impossible. The more you can stay clear, the less you will be embroiled in the tragedy and the impending catastrophe that can come from office politics. Or not. Some of the time, people (and leaders, sadly) get away with hurting others because they are… wait for it… and you have heard these words before – a protected species. As well as over-communicating, please do whatever you can to remove yourself from any office politics going on around you. 

And do all the above by creating conscious control, and leading under pressure, even when there are office politics at play. You’ve got this! 

And of course, reach out for help or guidance at anton@theguineagroup.com.au. We will help you work through the challenges you have! 

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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