Organizational Politics in the Workplace

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If you don't know how to deal with them, office politics can make your job much harder.
If you don't know how to deal with them, office politics can make your job much harder. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Human beings are political animals. Even those uninterested in most issues somehow seem to become animated and involved when it comes to office politics. Face it: The office is where you spend most of the day, and the things that happen there affect you. That's why office politics, whether over personal relationships or professional concerns, can overwhelm even the most stalwart employee if he is not careful. Office politics within reason can be a positive influence. But when left unchecked or approached with the wrong mentality, office politics can become downright destructive.

Identification

Office or workplace politics within a company or organization can be defined as actions, speech and events that result from corporate relationships. Office politics include anything from the fallout from a coworker trying to hijack a project to the effects of a management shakeup at the highest levels of an organization. Office politics can be between individual coworkers or entire departments in a company.

The Effect of Office Politics

Many see office politics as an ultimately negative thing. That's not completely true. Office politics, when they deal with the outcome of a project, the handling of an account or some other key corporate practice, can actually enhance a business' output and the quality of its work. But that's rarely the case because, no matter the issue, office politics often become personal. An argument may start about the direction of a project, but it can often turn into a personal judgment of coworkers or superiors. When that happens, office politics become corrosive, turning colleagues against each other and making employees think they need to take sides.

Turning Office Politics to Your Advantage

By keeping office politics about work, and only work, you can actually benefit from the debate and argument over work issues. Avoid treating office politics like a zero-sum game; you don't have to defeat colleagues to win at office politics. Search for ways a situation can be resolved that benefit all parties. Understand why certain colleagues have grievances. By ditching the my way or the highway attitude, office politics can turn into team-building exercises.

How to Deal with Office Politics

Whether you think positively or not, office politics are going to happen. And you might not always have control over the outcome or how your colleagues act. Often, office politics overwhelm a simple truth: You are at your place of work to do a job. Focus on the tasks that come with your position. Remain professional at all times. You can choose how much office politics affect you. Stay out of it or remain impartial if the issue is not one you care to involve yourself in. Doing what you were hired to do is the best remedy for the unproductive effects of negative office politics.

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