How to manage office politics and stay relevant
By Winsley Masese | January 16th 2015
|To build a good career, avoid smear campaigns, gossiping or mudslinging as they can only damage your own credibility.|
NAIROBI: Politics is an inescapable fact of life that is deeply engrained in the workplace. Office politics - the clash of differences or conflicts of interest between workers - often stems from fear or greed. This may see employees fear losing resources or lack confidence in their own ability to perform well, and end up discrediting others.
The immediate reaction of office politics is flight or fight. The vice breeds back stabbing, deceit, gamesmanship, sabotage, ruining people’s reputations among other tactics used by colleagues to get ahead. There is also mistrust which lowers morale, satisfaction and productivity.
Kisii University Human Resources and Strategic Management Lecturer Nyakundi Onsongo argues that office politics is largely started and shaped by organisational politics. In most cases, it has affected the career growth of many and reduced professionalism at the work place.
He observes that workplace politics makes people use the wrong indicator to measure performance and behaviour. “Companies fail in achieving some of the very basic functions as employees do not give their best,” he argues. “To survive, many will play the tribal, religion, class or social cards and this breeds sycophancy. If you resist by remaining neutral, you will be perceived anti-system and lose out. In most cases, those retrenched in most cases are those who are neutral,” he stated.
Freedom of expression
Besides, whatever the boss says is taken as the gospel truth and many would second it to survive and this eventually kills creativity.
Dr Onsongo advises companies to be receptive and allow the staff to express themselves freely. Elisabeth Muthoni, a Nairobi-based human resource practitioner, argues that when it comes to office politics, a sober mind is required. Rather than guessing the cause of an uncomfortable situation or making assumptions for someone’s malicious behaviour, one needs to understand fully the reason behind that. “Avoid the temptation to disparage the person you’re having a challenge with. Until you know the real reason behind the office politics that might lead to workplace sabotage, do not rush into conclusions but reserve your judgment,” she advises.
She advises workers to employ more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. “Instinctive fight reactions will make other employees resist whatever you are trying to achieve,” she states. In case you adopt the instinctive flight reactions, you will be labelled a pushover.
Though neither option is appealing for career growth, she calls for the need to recognise that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice to make. “Focus on the business objectives of the company besides your work,” she argues. And if not careful, you can find yourself stuck between two power figures who are at odds with each other.
It is thus possible to be thrown around while the two try to outwit each other and defend their own position. “If you can’t get them to agree on a common decision, focus on the business objectives and don’t take sides even if you like one better than the other,” she advises.
“By not taking sides, you will help to direct conflict resolution objectively. You’ll also build trust with both parties and keep engagements constructive.”
Cheryl Corner observed in the 2013 Forbes Magazine that one significant way to keep off office politics but still be considered relevant at the work place is by building a broad coalition of support.
This, she argues, is based on lobbying for the respect and trust of all your colleagues and by forging strong alliances by sharing credit for successes and delivering on promises. “Avoid smear campaigns, gossiping or mudslinging as they can only damage your own credibility,” she advises.
Stay true to your values as there are those who will do anything to win but at the end of it all, character and credibility will prevail and don’t give in to the temptation to play underhanded games to rise through the ranks.
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