Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 5th 2015 Contents B10
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt April 5, 2015
Everyone has an agenda in the
workplace. Whether people are
aiming for a promotion, attempting
to win a big project, trying to
impress their boss, or looking to
move departments, their actions
often have an underlying purpose.
This motivation can lead to
healthy, professional networking and
communication, but they may also
cause power struggles, competition
and alliance-making that can upset
everyone within a team.
How can you identify this type of
"office politics," and how do you
avoid its negative influence?
Office politics can be defined as
the use of often underhand methods
to gain advantage in the workplace.
People do this to achieve their goals,
gain prestige, or seek greater influ-
ence, so that they can persuade oth-
ers to share their viewpoint, access
assistance or resources, or get ahead
in their careers.
We all need to build good rela-
tionships in the workplace. For
example, the more connections you
can build with stakeholders and sen-
ior leaders, the more likely you are
to succeed. And, engaging with lead-
ers rather than staying on the side-
lines means that you increase your
visibility and ability to accomplish
However, this can cross over into
office politics when people partic-
ipate in destructive behaviour to
influence others, and it can have a
number of harmful consequences.
Instead of relying on positive rela-
tionship-building techniques, such
as persuasion and networking, indi-
viduals use damaging and unethical
actions like manipulation, corrup-
tion, backbiting, or infighting. This
can cause people to become frus-
trated at perceived inequities, damage
team morale, and result in stress and
Prof Kathleen Kelley Reardon
identified four types of political
organisations, and published her
findings in the January 2015, Harvard
Business Review. These organisations
that rules, expectations and promo-
tion standards are clear and followed.
Office camaraderie is strong, and no
one engages in underhanded political
isations are generally rules-driven,
and any political activity is low key.
People engage as a team, and few
conflicts occur. powerful indi-
viduals manipulate the rules to their
advantage, at their own convenience.
Cliques are common, and there s
usually a clear division between peo-
ple who are part of the "inner circle"
and those who are not. this envi-
ronment is marked by distrust. Peo-
ple achieve goals by circumventing
normal channels and procedures,
and by relying on personal connec-
tions. In these organisations, people
focus less on work and more on pro-
tecting themselves, and seeking
Patrick Lencioni s book, Five Dys-
functions of a Team, has outlined
many characteristics of highly and
pathologically politicised organisa-
tions---absence of trust, fear of con-
flict, lack of commitment, avoidance
of team accountability, and inatten-
tion to team objectives.
These unhealthy characteristics
are present in the latter stages of
Adizes Corporate Lifecycle. For
example, during the "recrimination"
stage, people often assign blame
instead of fixing problems, focus on
their survival to the detriment of
their work, and spread unhealthy
gossip. Although many organisations
linger here, this stage often precedes
So, how can you defend yourself
in a political workplace and ensure
that you and your team members
survive office politics? Here are seven
strategies that you can use:
you "walk the talk," and demonstrate
positive behaviour. Communicate
consistently and transparently,
encourage good teamwork, reward
good behaviour, give feedback on
poor behaviour, listen, build trust,
behave in an emotionally intelligent
way, and seek win-win results in all
of your interactions.
Deal with gossip
immediately to avoid malicious
rumours spreading. Talk to the peo-
ple involved to establish the truth,
and make sure that you lead by
example by not gossiping yourself.
This type of
behaviour is unacceptable in any sit-
uation. Unfortunately, however, it is
common in the workplace.
ing sides when conflict arises, and
concentrate on your objectives rather
than on the opposing viewpoints.
After all, everyone should agree on
the ultimate goal: ensuring that the
team or organisation succeeds.
• Identify stakeholders. Who holds
power and influence in your organ-
isation? Identifying and strength-
ening your ties with stakeholders
gives you greater insight, and it
allows you to navigate these com-
plicated relationships successfully.
Remember, job titles don t neces-
sarily reflect power. It s important
to find allies at work, who can sup-
port you, give you advice, and even
provide friendship. So, avoid focusing
exclusively on your work and ignor-
ing opportunities to build relation-
ships with others. Also, find a mentor
who can show you how to steer clear
of potential problems and help you
improve your connections.
If a conflict
arises that requires intervention from
human resources or your supervisor,
make sure that you have documen-
tation to support your position.
Using these strategies will help
you navigate the corporate environ-
ment, and avoid negative behaviours
However, if your situation doesn t
improve, it may be best to leave the
toxic environment and look for a
new position in a healthier work-
Avoid negative influence of office politics
JANICE LEARMOND CRIQUI CPC, ACC
Ideal Life Associate Certified Coach
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