- Did you know office politics cost US companies $100 billion?
- How do you handle office politics?
I host a podcast titled, “Work Relationships Matter”. My guests and I share stories about work relationships. Whether a person is a CEO or an entrepreneur, relationships matter. Connections are made and business gets done based on relationships.
During podcasts, I ask guests a two-part question: what is the toughest situation they faced, and how did they handle it? Approximately one-third of them mention a toxic office political situation. All of their stories were negative; which is unfortunate because office politics is neither good nor bad: it is how it is used. Office politics is good when people work together to improve working conditions for all stakeholders. This is called power within. It is bad when used to gain power at the expense of others; this is called power over.
Office politics is ubiquitous in organizations, but I was not aware of any courses offered on the subject in school. I learned how to write mission statements, and plan, lead, organize, and control my course work. I was not taught how to deal with unhealthy competition, or address gossip or cliques. I learned how to effectively navigate office politics through the school of hard knocks and self-study.
I had to learn how to develop relationships with some egotistical, narcissistic, and power-drunk peers and supervisors. However, the most important relationship I had to cultivate was the one with myself. I had to find my center and not allow other people’s behaviors to change me. In other words, my character. I learned to operate in situations that were borderline or over-the-line toxic by studying issues and people to determine what was really happening. I would reference the stated mission and goals and seek support from other mission-driven allies. If the situation deviated greatly from my character and ethics, I would be inclined to seek employment with an organization more aligned with my values.
When I started my Life Coaching practice, my goal was to help employees navigate office politics. Then, I decided it would be more beneficial to work with people in leadership positions who could help purify office political waters by establishing clear expectations, identifying dysfunctional systems, aligning goals and behaviors, and practicing empathetic communication that would result in success for all stakeholders.
Remember, “relationships work for those who work on them”!
Feel free to share examples of how you deal with challenging office politics.