Tips for Dealing with Office Politics

By Randy Wooden, Director, Professional Center by Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina

Many companies have some form of office politics, and knowing how to handle them can make your work life less complicated. Let’s look at a few tips to help you navigate political waters.

Understand who has formal and informal power An organizational chart communicates reporting structure, so it is easy to see who has formal power. It can be difficult to determine who has informal power and influence. Who is your boss really listening to? Be observant during meetings. Ask your co-workers what they think, especially with influence/informal power. Engage with long-tenured colleagues to understand how to best work with others in your new company.

Build relationships Building relationships does not require socializing with co-workers after working hours. You want to be seen as fair, competent and as a team player. Engage with colleagues at work, perhaps asking their opinions on work issues or offering to assist with tasks. It can take time to earn colleagues’ trust, so start sooner rather than later.

It is business, not personal: seek the best solution for the organization Disagreements on how to move forward grow more pronounced when we hold too tightly to a view or see backing down as a sign of weakness. Instead, make your case for what is good for the organization and its goals. It is easier for someone to change their mind or be more willing to go along with another plan that is best for the organization. If your way is selected, avoid the temptation to claim victory. You want to build positive relationships, not alienate colleagues on whom you might rely on in the future.

The workplace is comprised of people with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. Seek to understand what others are saying before dismissing their viewpoints. It is the respectful thing to do – and good for business!