Canadians have not been the only ones to notice the rise in office politics. According to research done by UK-based firm Roffey Park, organizational politics is now ranked as the number one cause of stress in the workplace. In 1998, the issue was at the bottom of the list of managers’ concerns. This had been recent problem noticed in Indian Organizations also, which had never been felt by the earlier generations.
What happened in between is that companies have considerably flattened their organizational charts and to save the costs of operations. In the old top-down management days, one would get mainly requests from their boss. Dotted-line chain of commands and matrix environments now mean everyone must become an expert at influencing, negotiating and networking.
Take Fatima (not her real name). The 32-year old manager works for a well-known multi-national conglomerate. To thrive in such an environment, or even just to survive, proficiency in office politics is a must, we can imagine easily.
If you need data to do your work, chances are you’ll need to ask someone working in another department or for another subsidiary. Sometimes this person doesn’t even work in the same country as you. If you just send an email requesting help, good luck to you. In school they tell you you’ll succeed if you’re competent at what you do. Truth be told, in big organizations, you’ll never get anywhere if you just do your job. The video below is about the awareness of the political situation of any Organization.
What you need is to know the right people and excel in the art of convincing them to help you. This isn’t done facing your computer screen and working hard on your deliverables.
Too many people live under the illusion that you can opt-out and stay away of the office politics, none can escape it. If you hold a job somewhere in some department, you’re already dealing with organisational politics and part of it.
At the start of one’s career, young professionals can expect to devote about 20% of their time to interpersonal issues, which is just another name for politics. The technical part of the job gets less and less important as you climb up the ladder. At the top the ratio is reversed. Upper-level executives spend 80% of their time dealing with people instead of technical stuff,” add Poirier.
Does this mean that shy people can never dream of having a prime career in the corporate world? Not necessarily, says Charles Larocque, a Montreal-based industrial psychologist with 30 years experience.
Fortunately interpersonal or political savvy can be acquired. Many universities, firms and professional organizations offer training in the field of human relationships and communications.
Besides, you don’t have to become everyone’s best friend, says Larocque. But you do need to become aware of what other people think, and interact with them. Ask coworkers for their help, and then return the favour when required.
Say you want to present a new idea to a big boss. Being good at politics can be as simple as asking their administrative assistant when is the best time to contact them. “She’ll probably be pleased to inform you that her boss is less rushed at some particular time of the day,” explains Larocque.
Here are other pieces of advice from our two experts. Use them to build up your political quotient:
Become a player. Realize that if you decide not to play the game of influence, you’re nonetheless part of the game. Those who withdraw from office politics are in fact relinquishing their power to somebody else. They’re bound to feel frustrated as decisions will always be imposed upon them.
Seek win-win situations. To do this, you need to understand other people’s objectives and motivations. Put yourself in their shoes. Try to find a common ground-solution which benefits everyone to some degree.
Master your emotions. Vulnerability can leave people flooded with negative emotions, which trigger a fight-or-flight response. Both fighting and fleeing are to be avoided since they create win-lose situations. One has to be able to take a step back, and think of a more political savvy solution.
Don’t burn bridges. If you can’t make friends with everyone, at least do your best to not become someone’s enemy. When negotiating, always allow the other person to save face. Try to look good, but not if it means making somebody else look bad, especially a higher-up.
Exchange services. You’ve heard the phrase « Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”? This is actually the best leverage you can use. Information doesn’t come free. Ask for something in exchange of your help. And don’t forget those who have helped you.
Don’t be a one-man show. Show you’re a team player by asking for feedback. Test your ideas on your peers and consider incorporating some of their input. They’ll feel valued and all the more willing to help you with your project.
Perk up your ears. Become of keen observer of office politics. To play the game you need to know the rules. Informal networks often hold an important key. Do you know who carpools with whom? Who eats together? Who got promoted recently? Choose your friends wisely but don’t forget that power can change hands quickly.
Don’t hide behind your computer screen. Take time to know your colleagues. This one tip is tricky, though. If you enquire about somebody’s plans for the weekend you have to really care about their answer. Fakes are promptly unmasked and create a sense of mistrust that can be hard to overcome.
Conceived by: Isabelle Laporte