Beware of workplace politics lest it ruins your career

To avoid the political mix, be mindful of all your actions and remember the standards you set now will determine your career direction for a long time to come.

NAIROBI: Human beings are social animals. They need a sense of belonging and recognition, which affects aspects of their life, careers included. In employment, staff will do anything to build friendship, alliances among other informal groups.

When Eric decided to write a ‘heavily worded’ complain letter to head office against his supervisor, he did not give it much thought. In his mind, he was just exercising his freedom of expression. And in any case, he had become known for his robust and vocal nature at work.

Unfortunately, he forgot that he was on contract and his supervisor was instrumental in its renewal. He is now jobless after his contract renewal was turned down, which he attributes to his spat with the supervisor.

Unhealthy alliances

Cases like Eric’s are common. With the new Constitution, Kenyans now enjoy more freedom. The work place has not been left behind either. Today’s employees are aware of their rights than ever before. On the same breadth, political polarisation has been deeply entrenched in our lives.

It is common to see groupings based on nepotism, tribal or language biases at work. Our social media forums are awash with comments that are heavily laden with negative ethnicity among other biases.

With all these influences, employees are forgetting the boundaries and falling for these dangerous games. These unhealthy alliances may be used to weaken perceived foes and create undue advantage.

Others will ride on these alliances to clinch deals and gain career milestones at the expense of genuine and more deserving people.

The effect of these games can be far reaching. It affects teamwork and depresses performance as team members feel used and deprived. Weaker members may be forced out due to intimidation and undue pressure. Silent rebellion, entrenched mediocrity and labour flight are also common occurrences.

The perpetrators get sidelined and may suffer loneliness, rejection and the associated stress. They also tend to suffer heavily whenever there is a change in dispensation. They have to build new alliances all over again.

A career build on such antics can never last, leave alone be fulfilling. A career is a life-long project. As such, all your plans and actions must be focused for an entire lifetime and not a short-term window. The political games may work for a while but when the day of reckoning comes, there will be no refuge. The hit is always major and most victims hardly recover.

To over this, ask yourself whether you are in that career for longs. You must then focus your plans and actions based on professionalism, genuine hard work, commitment and dedication. Envisage building a genuine career profile premised on integrity, honesty and other good virtues.

Conflict resolution

Seek out genuine friendships and alliances at work. Avoid the temptation to use others for personal gain. Seek out inclusive methods of conflict resolution. Avoid the temptation to hit and run but embrace a positive and dynamic attitude. Be mindful of all your actions and remember the standards you set now will determine your career direction for a long time to come.

-The writer is a human resources specialist at Peoplelink Consultants Ltd. Email: [email protected]