Office politics are unavoidable
According to the Harvard Business Review, companies are by their very nature political places where everyone attempts to be recognized and exert some level of influence. Workplaces are political because people are political.
“Our relationships with our colleagues — with whom we both collaborate and compete for promotions, for a coveted project, or for the boss’s attention — can be quite complex.”
No one in the history of business has avoided office politics. We’ve all learned we need political skill to navigate the political environments of our workplace and achieve career success. You have to develop your people skills if you want to deal with the conflicting agendas, ambitions, and insecurities lurking in the cubicles. However, office politics are conducted by a set of unwritten rules which makes their outcome often feel rigged or unfair. Studies show this negatively impacts company morale.
As a manager, you can help guide your team to a more positive form of office politics. Social scientist Gerald Ferris has done extensive research into corporate political gamesmanship and believes they can be broken into four categories:
- Social astuteness: is the ability to read people and understand how they see you. Knowing how other people view you and how your behavior impacts them is a soft skill that helps you understand your place in team dynamics.
- Interpersonal influence: is affecting how people think by understanding their preferences and agendas and then appealing to their preferences. You understand how to subtly work people to your advantage.
- Networking ability: the skill of forming mutually beneficial relationships with a wide range of people. Having allies can be helpful for pursuing personal agendas.
- Apparent sincerity: appearing honest and open — a straight shooter. People believing you are honest is more important than actually being honest.
People possessing these four kinds of skills exhibit more leadership, perform their jobs better, and receive promotions more often than their peers. Working with your team to develop these kinds of social intelligence and apply them in a positive way can help them excel in their roles and focus their energies on productive political savviness.