The art of navigating office politics


There can never be any textbook solution on how to navigate office politics. This is present everywhere and it is impossible to find a single place where it does not exist. The intensity of the problem may vary. Yet, the nature of the problem remains the same. This article discusses some coping mechanisms in some detail.

Introduction

If someone were to claim that there is no politics in his office, he or she is lying. Positively. For, it is so pervasive that to understand the various dimensions itself calls for some serious research and observation. Based on a number of real-world observations, where such politics was so common, this article would seek to discuss the same with specific reference to a) Empire building by bosses through Chamchagiri b) Ganging up against individuals c) Playing workmen Vs. Bosses d) Encouraging gossip of the worst kind and e) Never allowing someone to develop beyond a point.

Empire building by bosses through Chamchagiri

This is the worst practice of insecure bosses. It is these bosses who go all out to destroy the peaceful and motivating atmosphere in many workplaces. This often happens when the boss has a powerful Godfather, whose words are believed by the Top Management. Obviously, the Top Management does not have access to the lower level officials and tend to hear and believe what the Big boss says at any point in time. If this big boss is himself the Godfather of someone, there is every chance that the atmosphere becomes very corrupted. This can happen in any environment but it is very common in family managed companies.

The insecure boss will actively encourage both men and women who sing his praises. These are the dangerous "chamchas" who make life miserable for those who do not fall in line. That is the more professionally qualified subordinates. Very often, the boss is an experienced diploma holder. The smartest subordinates might have graduated from the best of engineering graduates.

The simple thumb rule is to master the technique of actively getting all the knowledge and skills, in spite of all difficulties. In a particular organization, the nasty boss would breathe down the neck of a very talented engineer. The latter was shrewd enough to take away all learning stored in secret files. The data was often transferred to his personal email id. The smart subordinate was too smart. The documentation was so good that when he faced an interview with a foreign organization, the interviewers were so keen to learn from him!! He not only got the job but within a month was sent to Japan for the most advanced training in Quality Management. He not only escaped from the nasty boss but was a very shrewd winner. He did not do anything unethical, though. He was just too shrewd for his position.

Ganging up against individuals

This is another aspect of office politics. The maximum number of individuals gang up against a particular individual who is not close to the boss. The situation is very conducive for the boss to even make the entire department people gang up against a particular individual who does not subscribe to whatever the boss does at any point in time. There are times when the individuals are themselves so intelligent that the stupid boss cannot manage the individual.

Of course, the smartest environments have such smart subordinates finding out some methods to communicate with bigger bosses. They do nail the bad bosses. However, if the situation is so difficult, those in GR, Finance or even Marketing can afford to jump to better organizations in allied or even totally new industries. For example, those in FMCG can join the service sector, if they are very sure of the learning and career progression opportunities.

Playing workmen Vs. Bosses

This is another aspect of office politics. Some dirty boss in even the line department would seek revenge on the HR Chief by inciting the workmen to fight against some policies. Normally, the HR Chief is empowered to be very strict with line managers when it comes to managing people on the shop floor. The line managers do not like this one bit. They would seek to have absolute control over their workmen.

It is then that they seek to play politics. If you are in a line position, it is always advisable to stay away from such politics. For workmen may also align with the HR Chief when some carrots are dangled in the settlements, over which line managers have no control. The trade union leaders will also always support only HR people. If the Top Management is involved, it is very much possible to stay clear of all politics by taking a totally neutral position, where transparency is the order of the day. The "We Vs. They" strategies are always not desirable at all. They can be very damaging as the entire work environment will not be conducive.

Encouraging gossip of the worst kind

It is somewhat shocking to often note that extremely talented individuals who are high performers, also indulge and encourage gossip of the worst kind. Such juicy gossip is repeatedly about the personal lives of some boss or even workmen. It could be about the matters related to the supposedly partial promotion handed out to an undeserving person and so on. It could also be about some irrational belief of the boss. Gossip goes on and on. It hurts the particular person through the process of feedback of someone close to the person involved. When the magnitude of the gossip is absolutely so stupid and far from the truth, ugly scenes can also take place.

Those affected might as well seek revenge on someone who is seen as key in the entire drama. Physical violence in full public view is a very dangerous thing that might as well prove fatal too. More often than not, the gossip is sought to be perpetuated only to seek revenge or to undermine the quality of work of the particular person and so on.

There are also instances where the excellent work which is done in a team creates heartburn among others and the most ridiculous form of gossip is let loose. This can destroy the entire atmosphere of goodwill and peace that is most important in offices.

As an individual, it is just vital that you are actually seen as a no-nonsense person, who would endeavor to be totally aloof and keep away from the gossip of any kind. The more you are away and just concentrate on your work, gossip and associated politics can hardly disturb you at all, irrespective of where it happens or how it happens.

Never allowing someone to develop beyond a particular point

This sometimes happens with some dirty and unethical bosses. Unable to tolerate very intelligent subordinates, they would go to any lengths to not give the best of learning opportunities to the most talented individuals. When this happens, quality suffers. The particular individual who is affected even starts showing signs of frustration. The single aim of the boss is to somehow create situations where the individual resigns his job. This has happened in several organizations.

If you are the unfortunate victim, try to reason out with the boss or his boss. If the situation is beyond repair, you could as well take the challenge and resign your job as quickly as you can. If there is a situation where the boss might change after a while or is likely to move out to another location, you could take a big risk and stay on.

Irrespective of what you do, never ever compromise on your right to learn with whatever is given to you. If there are inter-departmental tasks, take them on as a challenge and get immersed in your work. Destiny is largely written by us. If we cannot work with a horrible boss or even bosses in particular environments, we could do so in far better environments. Let us ensure that this happens in situations where we feel the most helpless.

Conclusion

Office politics takes many forms. Some dimensions have been discussed in some detail in the above article. If you can take on the challenges associated with office politics and also have coping mechanisms, we will not have any problem. If we are not able to cope with office politics, we might have to quit particular jobs.

The more we learn about the complexity involved, the better it will be for us to manage it.


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Comments

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao24 Feb 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

Office politics will be there in every office. The big bosses in the organisation will always have some informers and they will try to be in the good books of the top boss and they will pass the information to him as per their convenience. But the boss will always go by these words. There starts the politics. These informers will always try to take advantage of the situation. This will give way for groups and each group will try for their supremacy.
The top bosses will be depending on some senior level officers and these senior officials will play foul with their juniors. So the juniors who will be the yes bosses to their boss will have the advantage. Unfortunately sometimes in this office politics, innocent people suffer.
I have seen some organisations in the private sector also which suffered a lot due to the internal politics among the directors of the company. The Directors play dirty politics to show their supremacy and see that their hidden agendas are fulfilled.
The author has explained the facts very nicely



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