Clean Office Politics … Is It A Myth?

If you are hearing about office Politics for the first time, then I am sure that you are either working as a Solopreneur or on a sabbatical. Any organization where people tend to spend more time at work than outside is guaranteed to have office politics and the way it is played may vary, but the truth is it is always there.

I have come across many top notch executives succumb to office politics without having a clue as to how to navigate themselves around this.

Take the case of a brilliant executive I did happen to work with couple of months back– Let’s name her Sarah.

She had worked her way up diligently over the years and when it came to finalizing someone for an overseas dream location with perks to die for- she was picked for the post. Now on the surface it did look good, but what had happened in this selection process was that 3 of her office colleague’s senior to her was ignored and she given the option to relocate.

Once she accepted the offer with both her hands, the murky shadow of dirty office politics did kick in (this is the exact words she used in my first interaction). Colleagues who at one point of time was her friends turned against her and most of them began to gang up on her.

In a matter of 2 weeks, everything began to fall apart for her. The reason was obvious she was succumbing to office politics and she did not have a clue what hit her before we began to work around it.

Personally, I would not see office politics as something negative. It is bound to be there when two or more people are working together.

What I do tell people is if you need to work yourself way up to the top you need to be street smart and work one’s way through without resorting to any tricks or deception.

Some of the Top CEOs I have been interviewing for my upcoming book have told me that “one should never be afraid of office politics”. If you are a Top Performer, then you need to master the art of winning in office politics. Read on to find how to navigate the situation if you are someone exposed to office politics.

Fight or Flight is not your only choice

One of the first things Sarah decided when she realized that the office politics was becoming dirty was to go all out with a fight because deep down she was always a fighter. She had fought against insurmountable professional and personal loss to get to this once in a life time opportunity and she did not want to go down without a fight.

Now remember… this is a normal human reaction because we as human being are programed to react this way from the times we lived in real caves hunting and gathering. However, this is not the only choice is what I did tell her and to everyone who is reading these lines. You bet that I do know that it (office politics) is a jungle out there, but stay with me.

This article by Harvard Medical School does explain the concept of Fight or Flight mode to the point.

What I have realized over the years working for corporates and working with people just like you is that approaching this situation with a “Always On” fight mode will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve. However, the opposite of approaching the same situation will eventually label you as someone who can be pushed around and believe me, that is not the place I would want to be if I am leading teams.

I always tell my clients that both these options are not the options when it comes to playing your part in office politics. If you are striving to win to the Top, then you must consciously choose your reaction to every situation and must remember always that you have absolute control in how you react.

What’s Your Purpose?

If you do not know where you are going. Any road will take you there. Yes, these words are quite like what the Cheshire cat did tell in the book “Alice in Wonderland”. I do think the same logic does work when it comes to your Corporate journey. One of the first things I do ask my clients when they interact with me is questions to find their purpose.

Each one of us do have different purposes in life and no two persons can have the same purpose. I remind my clients their purpose when I help them navigate their way through the minefield of office politics. I personally feel it is extremely important to keep the goal post vision in the mind’s eye always, otherwise it is very easy to lose our objective during these times.

What I have realized over the years is that without a strong purpose you are easy to get distracted and can’t expect much of the situation.

With Sarah, her purpose was very clear. She did wanted to relocate outside her country and always wanted to live and settle down in the country which she was offered the new position in.

So for me it was that much more easier to steer Sarah in the right direction. She did learn to disengage from petty discussion and differences with her frenemies. What this made her in a short time is that she began to position herself as someone who is much more interested in getting things done.

During our Coaching engagement, Sarah’s immediate boss appreciated her as someone who was mature beyond her experience and she did write in her appraisal, that she is someone who can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

Now all this was possible because Sarah’s purpose was crystal clear and she had her vision fixated to her purpose, when it came to her professional goals.

Build Your Own Circle Of Excellence

Getting frustrated and allowing people around you to hit at your weakness is what most executives do tend to do. This can be extremely counterproductive. When you do know that most of the circumstances at work is something which you have little control.

When I was working in the Top Corporates just like you there was policies, unrealistic demands from external and internal clients and to top it all a boss with his own mandate. Sounds familiar? Yes, because this is more often a common thread across all corporates which does begin to affect our personal interests.

When the odds are more often against you the only thing in my experience and working with people in similar situation has taught me is to focus on the things which you do have absolute control, that is to build on your own circle of excellence. Remember, this is one of the most empowering technique each one of you can do in the present circumstances and believe me you will “Thank me for this” sooner than later.

The moment you begin to work on building you own circle of excellence you take the first step towards not looking through a victimized lens and this gives you a great opportunity to position yourself as someone who works and thrives in each constraint.

This brilliant article Simple rules for making alliances work is something you can refer to build your own circle of excellence at work.

Operational constraints are all around us when we work in a bigger organization but what separates the wheat from the chaff is the approach you do take to make your position stronger under duress. This, believe me … will strengthen your core, which can help you in more ways than one as you work your way to the top.

What goes around comes around

One of the most common behaviors I have come across in dirty office politics is that people do tend to get personal and at times strike below the belt. Now yes, I do know the saying everything is fair in war at times, but things are a little different in the real Corporate world.

When you take this position to get at someone who has rubbed you on the wrong side, then always remember that human Psychology is at work here. Most people do tend to remember the moments when they were humiliated or insulted more than anything else. This is always at the top of their mind and believe me they will never let go of an opportunity to get even at you. Some of them tend to become experts in this area.

This article by Eric Jaffae The complicated Psychology of revenge does touch upon this behavior pattern of people in detail

So, the best logical option available to someone who is facing a similar situation is to realize this and work on building network of like-minded people who you can tap into during times of crises. Also, remember that the Leadership teams in any organization is looking at a person to move up the ladder from a 360-degree view.

Without building more allies around you it is next to impossible to garner brownie points to your immediate boss who might find it difficult to position you or champion your cause in a leadership role when your own peers find you difficult to work with.

The moment we reached this space with Sarah she realized it quickly and began to consciously build trusted Allies around her in a matter of days. Believe me, this did help her immensely when it came to her boss taking the final call.

Think Long Term

When there is conflicting interest there is bound to be friction. When you look at a situation from a higher pedestal, you as a more mature person need to look at long term situation. Look at how you can walk half the bridge so that the other person can do the same to you.

Sometimes we need to tell the person that this is what you are doing and what you can expect from the person. Always look at taking a position which will help you understand the position from the other perspective and this will eventually make you seek out an outcome like a “heat seeking missile” that is acceptable to both of you.

This one habit has come across obvious with some of the High Performing Executives I have been working closely as their Executive coach and when I am spending some time Interviewing them for my upcoming book. Working your way to the Top is more like playing Chess.

You must plan, build allies, watch your move and most importantly believe in yourself.

You can refer my previous Blog to work on your own belief system.

Office politics can and is dirty. But believe me you have a choice as to how to play this game. You can either play it dirty by getting into the arena and you will soon realize that most will beat you with experience. However, you can play it clean just like how Sarah did and come out a better person both emotionally and physically. The choice is only yours and no one can take it away from you.

If you are keen in knowing how to play Clean office politics just click on the link to Schedule a Strategy Call with me personally. In this call, we shall

· Identity the area of your challenge
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· Get a clear road map to achieve your professional goals.

If you are an executive in an organization and are looking at “Employee Transformation” then you will be glad to hear that I do “Strategic Intervention” personally for your core team. By the end of this intervention your team will be able to

1.Work on their Stretched Goals with absolute clarity and focus
2.Double or even triple their productivity, by developing laser-like focus
3.Create an absolutely clear road-map in their own Goal Setting Journey.

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