During my work and travels in different parts of India I have often heard the word ‘politics’ in offices that had no resemblance to any political office – no political flag, leader, volunteer, manifesto etc. They were conventional offices where people worked and there, ‘politics’ was the term used to describe everything from favouritism, corruption to irregularities.
Politics always seemed to me a vague term and the closest definition I could figure out for myself was ‘misuse of power by an individual or group to further their self interest’. To know what the world out there thinks of it, I put the question “What is politics in office?” to google search today and it came up with the following definition:
“Office politics” are the strategies that people play to gain advantage, personally or for a cause they support. The term often has a negative connotation, in that it refers to strategies people use to seek advantage at the expense of others or the greater good.
That’s a definition I find quite relevant to life everywhere and I felt interested to read more about Office politics. The following texts are a few I selected from articles I read on the topic on different websites. Most websites partly or fully justify Office politics and are full of advices on how to play it but I have excluded such texts. However, to serve as a sample there is just one at the beginning of this compilation.
Positive or negative – politics happens. The philosopher Plato said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” And this hold true today in the workplace: If you don’t participate in the political game, you risk not having a say in what happens and allowing people with less experience, skill or knowledge to influence the decisions being made around you.
(Amen! While reading the following selections you may substitute ’employee/worker’ with ‘volunteer’ and ‘business/company’ with ‘work place’ for better sense of relevance.)
Overall, 55 percent of employees say they partake at least somewhat in office politics, with most of those doing so to advance their careers. The study found that 76 percent of workers believe that office politics affect their efforts to get ahead, up from 56 percent who felt that way in 2012.
Gossiping and spreading rumors is the most popular form of office politicking within their company, with 46 percent of employees saying it is the behavior they see most often. Gaining favor by flattering the boss, taking credit for others’ work and sabotaging co-workers’ projects are among the other, more common forms of office politics employees say they witness.
Personal relationships amongst employees can sometimes also lead to politics. Politics arises when individuals go all out to support their friends, relatives or neighbours at the workplace. One should never mix business with personal life. Your team member might be your best friend, but at work he needs to be treated just like others. No special favours should be granted to him.
One should always have a control on his tongue at the workplace. Speak relevant and don’t always find fault in others. Listen to what the other person has to say. Everyone’s opinion is important. One should learn to own his responsibilities.
Manipulating information to mislead superior also leads to politics at the workplace. One should pass on information in its desired form.
Politics also arises when employees are indulged in unnecessary gossips. Leg pulling, criticism, backstabbing, hatred lead to politics. A jealous employee would never want his fellow workers to do well.
Criticism increases as a result of office politics and people tend to crib more.
People willing to come in the limelight without much effort depend on politics.
It (Office politics) majorly affects the relationship amongst the individuals. Friends turn foes due to politics. People stop helping and most importantly trusting each other.
Office politics should be looked at as something that can be reframed into a positive, says Williams. “You should work to contribute to a culture at your company that values people and discourages abusing people in any form,” he says.
The best way to do this is to praise others, encourage teamwork and be empathetic to your co-workers. By making an effort to change the culture to one of kindness and honesty, you can create a better environment for everyone.