Organizational politics – the term alone has negative connotations, and it is essentially the focus on the use of power to affect decision making in an organization or on self-serving behaviours. However, in today’s workplace, it is impossible to avoid office politics entirely. Politics means humans and humans means politics. Therefore, it is important to understand how to maneuver the complicated webs of professional relationships and power distances in the workplace.
1. Understand Decision Making in the Workplace
It has been proven that political relationships are moderated by an individual’s understanding of the decision making and organizational structure within the workplace. An individual who has a clear understanding of who is responsible for making decisions and why they were selected to be the decision makers would have a better understanding of how and why things happen they way they do better than someone who does not understand the decision making process in the organization. When both politics and understanding are high, one’s job performance is likely to increase.
Therefore, it is important to examine and come up with your own organizational chart of political power by asking yourself questions such as – Who are the real influencers? Are there groups or cliques that have formed? and then subsequently study the work culture and determine the atmosphere at work. It is found that organizations with high uncertainty, such as having unclear objectives, vague performance measures and ambiguity, such as unclear hierarchical communication flows or lines of authority, would have employees which are more likely to engage in organizational politics, since a fraudulent claim can be less easily challenged.
Hence, one would need to determine the work culture, favoured behaviours and status symbols which are valued in the workplace in order to manage organizational politics effectively.
2. Build Relationships and Allies
Subsequently, it is necessary to build relationships that cross the hierarchical structure in all directions, such as networking between peers, bosses and executives below you. By being part of multiple networks but yet remaining neutral, one would be able to keep one’s finger on the pulse and insider news within the organization.
One can also practice ingratiation, which is a psychological technique in which an individual tries to become more likeable to their target. One can engage in genuine flattery through expressing admiration and respect for one’s superiors, self-conformity by agreeing with the opinions of one’s colleagues and showing that one shares similar beliefs and values, self-presentation in which the one emphasizes their own attributes in order to be seen positively in the eyes of others, and finally and favour doing, by providing support and help when needed to others. Favor doing may also help to generate reciprocity in the future.
All these techniques will ultimately help an individual in gaining likeability between his colleagues and superiors, thereby building more allies.
3. Neutralize Negative Behaviors and Understand “Difficult” People
Finally, it is necessary to get to know people whom you may dislike and maintain a professional relationship with them. One can be courteous to these people, and at the same time understand their motivations and goals, so that one would be able to effectively avoid or counter the impact of negative policking behavior engaged by some of these people.
Therefore, it is important to know how to manage office politics as a means to maximize job gains in the workplace and also to prevent those who are less capable than you in managing you. This will also increase job satisfaction by decreasing the job anxiety and stress associated typically in trying to manage office politics.
Office Politics: Must you play? A handbook for success. Connor, Cheryl, 2013. Last accessed 30 March. http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2013/04/14/office-politics-must-you-play-a-handbook-for-survivalsuccess/
Organizational Behaviour, Ronnis, Stephen and Judge, Timothy.
Dealing with Office Politics, Anon, 2013. Last accessed 2 April.http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_85.htm