What’s really the difference though? The difference is that politics is associated with selfish manoeuvring, power struggles and messy conflict.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some ways to wade the waters of politics in the office, while keeping your integrity intact. This will ultimately be more beneficial for your career anyway.
Think of your team
Using politics to your advantage isn’t just about getting yourself ahead. It’s also about working together better as a team, and the whole team moving forward.
So think of how office politics can be used to integrate better into the team as a whole. Consider your strengths and weakness, and how they will fit in the team. Integrating yourself in a group means that you benefit from the group’s benefits.
You’re not playing Survivor where the name of the game is secret alliances and double motives. Show yourself to be trustworthy and upfront, by saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
This doesn’t mean being frank about other people’s issues though. Don’t pass on information you have been entrusted with. If you don’t know whether something shouldn’t be passed on or not, remember that it’s always better to err on the side of saying too little, than too much.
What not to do
- Don’t play the blame game. Although it’s tempting and might seem like it would help your case in the short term to pass on the blame to someone else, this is bound to annoy people. Accept responsibility where you need to.
- Don’t be a flatterer. The last thing you want to be known for is as a suck-up. No one likes or respects a brown-noser, not even the person you’re cosying up to.
- Don’t pass on gossip, questionable judgments or rumours. Even if you think you’re amongst friends who won’t take the information further – beware. The last thing you want is for a third party to hear a broken telephone version of what you said, and hear that it came from you. You also don’t want to be seen as someone who is a pot-stirrer or the type of person to promote conflict.
In your relationships
It’s always a good move to build relationships with people you work with. This doesn’t mean that you have to become best friends with everyone, but do take the time out to be friendly and sociable around business water coolers.
However, don’t do so solely for the benefit of having connections. People can pick up on when you are only befriending them for your own interests. Make the effort to be friendly and interested in people’s lives even when you have nothing to gain from them.
Ethical politics is beneficial
No matter how comfortable the environment, how relaxed the atmosphere, and how small the group, there’s always going to be politics of some kind in your workplace.
What you can control is what kind of game you play: whether you’re going to put yourself first above all others, and do whatever it takes to get ahead. Or whether you’d rather see yourself as part of a team, and get ahead by ethical means.
In the long term, you’ll find that keeping your integrity intact will do more for your career than only trying to get yourself ahead. Because people will see you as the dependable, trustworthy and principled person that you are.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Queenie Bates is an avid reader, researcher and writer, currently based in Cape Town, South Africa.