How to prepare for office politics

Back-stabbing concept
By Student Blog

14 November 2016

Many young people find themselves unprepared for office politics, according to a new study by the Co-op. A surprisingly high 54% of those surveyed said that they were not prepared for, or as informed as they would like to be, about how to handle politics in the workplace. 

Navigating office politics can often feel like tiptoeing through a minefield. The comedian Groucho Marx described politics as "the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies."

It doesn't have to be that way - you can learn to deal with 'bad politics' in the workplace without allowing others to take unfair advantage of you.

'Good politics' meanwhile can help you to promote yourself to your managers and superiors, and further your aims within a business. 

Managing and resolving conflict

Conflict in business is inevitable - whether it manifests as a personal disagreement, conflicting business aims, or an inability to decide on a course of action for a team or group.

Cool head:

The key when dealing with conflict is not to panic, and to try and keep a cool head - do not allow yourself to be drawn into personal or emotional disagreements.

In a business environment, emotion and passion can be strong motivators, but they can also get in the way of making decisions.

Listening skills:

If you find yourself at odds with a colleague or a superior, resist the urge to immediately dismiss their arguments. Don't belittle someone's point of view - listen carefully and with respect, and then try and negotiate a compromise which allows both parties to 'win.'

If someone feels they have been listened to, they will be less likely to feel let down or aggrieved. Try to focus on acting with integrity and positivity, and cultivate your listening skills.

Set goals for your communications:

Be clear about what you want to achieve, while remaining flexible and open to new ideas. Be strategic - focus on business objectives, and what works best for the company, rather than offering personal opinions.

Try to project confidence without being aggressive. Communicate your points clearly, concisely, and without self-effacing apologies or qualifications.

How to approach a hierarchy

Learn how to work within a hierarchy:

This is good politics! Rather than treating it as an obstacle, remember that if you manage to work effectively and productively alongside your colleagues, this will also reflect well on your manager - and that can't be a bad thing!

Take credit where its due:

Remember to always take credit for work you have done, and make it clear what you have contributed to a project: this will increase your chances of advancement within an organisation. Failing to take credit for your own work can breed resentment. 

The secret of compromise:

You may find yourself caught between two superiors with opposing views. It can be difficult to know how to react when your superiors are in conflict, but once again, the secret is compromise.

Try not to take sides, and find a compromise which will allow both parties to feel they have contributed to the solution. Emulate good practice where you find it, and perhaps consider asking a superior to act as a mentor or sounding board.

Know the culture:  

Get to know the culture of the business in which you work. Is it: 

  • Confrontational, with decisions being arrived at by consensus through argument?
  • Collaborative, where teams and sub-teams work together to solve specific problems?
  • Creative, with value placed on radical new ideas and inspiration for each new project?
  • Compliant, where following rules and procedures is vital?
  • Singular, where individual solutions to problems are valued highly?

Take some time to assess the terrain, and decide on which approaches will work best in your particular working environment.

Topics

  • CA Student blog

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