Office politics are a reality that we all have to face.Avoid them? You risk not having a say in some matters  and you give a chance to people with less experience, skill or knowledge than you, to decide your fate and that of your team.

Office politics often comes with backstabbing, spreading of malicious rumours, and sucking up to the who’s in the work place. Like it or not, office politics live in every organisation.

Practicing good office politics means, you and your team’s interests will progress fairly and appropriately. Being alert to bad office politics, will help avoid needless suffering while others take advantage. 

To make politics work for you positively, accept them as reality. That said, you need to develop strategies to acknowledge and understand political behaviour and to build a strong and supportive network.

These seven tips can help you do this:

 1. Analyse the organisation chart

Office politics are unlikely within the formal organisational structure. Observe from a distance, understand who holds the political power mantle and influence, rather than people’s rank or job title.

Ask yourself: who are the real influencers? Who has authority but doesn’t exercise it? Who is respected? Who are the brains behind the business?

2. Understand the informal network

Secondly, try to understand peoples informal and social networks, examine their interactions and relationships. Find out who gets along with who and who keeps more to themselves. Where are the experts, groups or cliques? Are connections based on friendship, respect or something else?

Find out how influence flows between the parties and whether there are any interpersonal conflicts.

 3. Build connections

Start building your own social network. Look beyond your team, extend to the ones on top of the hierarchy and the politically powerful people. Interact with them, build high-quality relations and avoid empty flattery. Don’t get too close to one group or another. For a more personal relationship, be sure it is based on consent and never break confidentiality.

 4. Develop your “people skills”

Politics are all about people. Use strong interpersonal skills to build and maintain your network. Monitor your emotions, what makes them tick and how to handle them. This will enable you to think before you act. This emotional intelligence will help you to pick up on other people’s emotions and understand how to approach them.

Learn to listen. It is in listening, that you learn. People like people who listen to them!

5. Make the most of your network

It is from relationships that you build your personal brand and raise your team. Connections might open up great opportunities for you and your team. However, be cautious when utilizing your connections to not get labelled a user and end up making more enemies than friends.

Be accountable, it shows honesty and integrity. Ask for feedback and get peoples perspective on your work. It shows that you value their opinions.

6. Be Brave – but not naive

This simply means “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Don’t steer away from people who practice bad politics. Get to know the gossips and manipulators. Be courteous but guarded around them, understand their goals to avoid the impact of their negative politicking. Some people practice bad politics due to their own insecurities. Therefore, protect yourself as such people are very clever and dangerous.

7. Neutralise negative politics

Help in diluting the negative politics to make your workplace a conducive environment. Avoid passing on rumours, don’t rely on confidentiality (so keep private matters private), remain professional and don’t take sides.

It’s often possible to find a solution to every conflict. Be confident and assertive but not aggressive when voicing your own concerns. Be certain that you take an organisational perspective.