Management Matters

Ways to Combat Office Politics

Date Posted: 05/11/2016

Ways to Combat Office Politics

Politics in the workplace can arise from many root causes that result in opposing groups forming to disrupt the normal function of organizations. It is usually the insecurities that people feel which lead to groupism so they form strategies to gain some advantage, or sometimes people just become pawns in a power playoff of higher management. The term usually denotes an aggressive circle or circles of employees who try to dominate others to bend them to their viewpoints to achieve some perceived end. Such situations always vitiate the working environment and affect the functioning of the department to the detriment of the organization. However, this need not always be a cause for alarm if it is handled intelligently by personal networking with other likeminded colleagues to ‘combat’ such politics.

By neutralizing groupism or ‘bad politics’, with networking, or ‘good politics’, it is possible to contain or diminish the adverse impact of politicking in order to protect your career from jeopardy and avail of opportunities for growth. Here are some ‘whys’ and ‘how-to’ for combating office politics to good effect:

Use politics favorably. The first step required is to alter your own mindset, accept the reality of living with workplace politics and learn to cope with it. You can overcome the stress of living with politicking by understanding what is happening and why. Use your keen observation powers and gather knowledge that will enable you to develop buffers, and devise means to handle the politicking through diplomacy not confrontation. Back it up with a conviction of the right and wrong arguments and never taking sides.

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Understand why some colleagues become political. Figure out what kind of people these are, and what drives them to form divided groups. Are they the same outside as within the organization? What do they really want to achieve? Are they desperate because of some real threat? Or is it just their nature to be disruptive — a common feature in people with no ambition, vision and direction, who suffer from the ‘herd’ instinct and are incapable of independent thinking. Be aware of their sensitivities and use careful tact and delicate handling to get some answers in order to formulate what you need to do.

Listen well. It is human nature to let the steam gush out and to feel gratified when their complaint is heard. If you ‘lend them your ears’ you will soon develop their confidence and be perceived as a ‘friend’ for them to confide their individual opinions in you. Restrain from revealing your own opinions either way, and be sure to be non-partisan so as not to be tagged either as supportive or disapproving.

Be the ‘good’ neutral. There is no better tool in getting close to people than being genuinely affable and caring about the personal concerns of others. Being nice will prompt moderate to privately admit support/dissent of good/bad arguments which is critical for you to recognize. Blend in with everyone equally so you know who can be depended on for support when you need it. Develop individual one-to-one equations with all and get to understand their approachability.


Devise alternative opinions. Think beyond the obvious and use logic to argue opposing views and apply this logic to pacify the overly excitable. When militant people behave aggressively they rely on their group backing and use this strength as a tool for not cooperating with others. Explain your alternative logic calmly to counter their arguments for their consideration thus making their stand vulnerable.

Forthrightness will carry you. Remember that it is very difficult to do battle with the side that upholds the right stand. In order to back the right, you must first be genuinely convinced and be forthright in your convictions. When confronting someone’s accusations or treachery, it will be these traits that will carry you through in disagreeing with them without being tagged as an opponent.

Live and let live. It’s futile trying to change others who are out to disrupt, so you must learn to survive without ruffling your own feathers simply by accommodating them. Remember that it is not you who fight, and you don’t need to win anything except the right to work in peace. Let higher management handle the battle so you can wrestle with your own job responsibilities. If you still feel you can break the deadlock and end the politicking, try to come up with innovative compromises whereby both sides win some and lose some.

Choose a survival option. You need to come to terms with the situation and learn to live with it or seriously consider going elsewhere if your tolerance is breached. Don’t hang around to be inevitably drawn into the politicking and ruin your career. No matter how bad it may be, you have the ultimate choice in choosing how you react, whether its fight or flight that is best for you. Decide this aspect judiciously and take a considered decision without any irritation or haste.

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It is important to note that not wanting to participate in politics at all, and being too far removed, you may have to face the consequences of the wrong side ending up winning and adversely affecting your future. Therefore, since office politics is here to stay, be wisely participative to help you get what you want in your career without compromising your values and interests. If you can use neutrality positively to control and counteract the ill effects of politicking, you will certainly succeed in combating the monster of workplace politics.

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