There isn’t any topic about the workplace that brings up more anger and frustration than office politics. “It’s just not fair!” is what I hear over and over again when addressing this topic in presentations and workshops. Women especially find this an emotional issue. Why? Because women are more likely than men to avoid the politics and believe that if they focus on their performance and work hard, they will get ahead. This avoidance, however, sets them up to be blindsided. Unaware of the politics at play, they are often passed over for promotions and not given the resources they need to succeed. They become disillusioned and angry. The reality, which is sometimes hard to come to terms with, is that it takes political savvy to get ahead and stay ahead.
Here are the 9 most frustrating facts about office politics:
You can’t escape it. It’s everywhere.
It is not uncommon for people to voice their annoyance with the politics in their company and department and seek another position to solve this problem. They make a move only to find out that politics exists everywhere. In some instances, the politics may not be obvious, but it exists in every department and every company. In fact, whenever there is more than one person, there is politics!
Think about going out for dinner with a group of friends. Who sits next to whom? Who shares the gossip with whom? In sharing this gossip, are they hoping to gain favor and influence? Are they seeking to be accepted and liked? They are perhaps using this information for “political” influence with their friends.
Have you visited your children’s classroom and observed the dynamics? Aren’t there politics at play there as well? Children seeking favor with the teacher or other students is a common behavior. They learn at an early age what it takes to have power and influence and what it takes to succeed.
The fact is you can’t escape politics. It’s everywhere and you need to deal with it at some level in order to thrive in the workplace.
The unwritten rules often rule.
The people who try to diligently follow the rules are often very frustrated. Yes, every company has a company handbook with the formal policies, but it is the unwritten rules that are important. What’s frustrating about this fact is that these rules are not obvious. It takes both focus and intention to discover what the rules are before you break one of them by mistake. In fact, some unwritten rules are sacred and you need to know what they are or you can step on a landmine that will sabotage your career. If you’re lucky, when you join a new company or department, a trusted colleague will fill you in as to what the real rules are.
Once you accept the fact that there are unwritten rules, you can make it your intention to uncover them. The rules often differ depending on your boss, department, and team. Therefore, you must be cognizant of your surroundings to understand how to play the game and how to win the game.
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