Fayaz could not get promotion for last two years even though his performance was excellent and his promotion was due. Shafquat was transferred to a department intentionally so that he cannot perform well and it can lead to get him fired from the company. Afsana was treated badly just because his father was a political leader of a party that her office boss not used to support. All of the above are the examples of office politics. During the early years of my career, I have seen quite a lot of office politics. In most of the cases, it is a part and parcel of a company. No matter what the nature of business of a company is, smell of politics will always be there. According to Aristotle, “man is by nature a political animal.” Indeed! And for evidence, look no further than the workplaces!
Office politics is such a nasty thing that destructive office politics can demoralize an organization, hamper productivity and increase the employee turnover. Now the question is: how can we avoid office politics and how to deal with it? Is it possible to keep the office environment clean?
First of all, it depends largely on the organization culture. If the top management itself nurtures gossip, negative competition, unhealthy debate on politics, religion and other sensitive issues, then it will grow and become a big tree of evil someday. If you are the part of management, you need to make sure that you do not ‘play favorites’ and act as much impartial as you can. Because if you, as a boss, do not maintain this strictly, there will be no chain of command and ultimately, it will affect your company badly. Favoritism and biasness does not bring any good for any company at all!
Secondly, even though you are the boss of the company and you are not playing favorites or avoiding biasness, managers under you might give you biased information or negative impression regarding some employee which might not necessarily be the truth. How can you avoid that! Yes, you can avoid that by collecting feedback from different people, not just depend on what you heard from one source. In HR, 360 degree feedback is a popular term which means getting direct feedback from an employee’s subordinates, peers, supervisors and even a self-evaluation by the employee. So, if you can collect information from different sources, you can not only cross check and find out the true information easily but also can track down if someone is trying to sabotage or not.
Thirdly, lots of guys just think that avoiding mixing with people in the office and just doing his/her job peacefully is the best way to avoid office politics. Come on, it can never be! You need to get along with the people, you need to socialize and do some networking. Unless you talk to the people of different departments and mingle with them, you won’t have a good understanding about the business of your office. Finance people always have the information regarding company budget and funding, HR people know about the upcoming recruitments, trainings or any changes in employee policy that might take place and same goes for other departments, they know about their respective department related issues. Obviously, you do not need to try and push them for secret information, but getting along with them will give you some idea regarding where the company is going forward and is there anything to worry about or not. So, avoiding mixing with people is not a solution for sure.
Fourthly, you need to stay away from the gossip. Nothing ruins the dynamics of an office more than gossip, nothing good comes from it. If you are in the middle of some gossip, try to change the topic. For example, you have joined your co-workers during tea-break and found that they are talking about Farhad who was absent that day. They were talking about the project Farhad is working on and how that project is going to fail because of him. As you joined them, you can neither step back from there nor can just listen to what they are saying. So, you can change the topic by saying how difficult that project is and how some other projects are also having tough time. Then, it becomes a general discussion instead of only focusing on Farhad. If the gossip is about someone who comes let often, you can mention how difficult the traffic during the morning now-a-days and turn the discussion that way. In case the guys are comparing two co-workers or two bosses, better not to take any particular side. Better to talk about the positive things of both of them and try changing the topic to something else.
I would like to come up with some more tips in my next article as this is such an important issue and needs more discussion. Too much office politics can not only ruin the careers of good performers but also makes them unhappy that result in quitting the job. This is why ‘environment at workplace’ is ranked as the topmost criteria in most of the employment related surveys.