What’s Office politics?

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.                                

                                                                        Dealing with office politics

(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. 

                                                                     6 Types of office politicians

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.

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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.

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Manipulating information to mislead superior also leads to politics at the workplace. One should pass on information in its desired form.

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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.

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Criticism increases as a result of office politics and people tend to crib more.

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People willing to come in the limelight without much effort depend on politics.

                                                                    Management Study Guide

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.

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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.                                

                                                                  Change the culture from within

winning-office-politics-roby-vincent-4-638

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New Chief of Google, with a difference

There is hardly anyone who browses the internet and not heard of Google. From making a mark as a search engine provider Google has grown to become one of the most successful businesses in the world and a leader in frontiers of information technology. The men who lead Google describe their work as ‘helping the world organise its information’. It is an open question if everyone would consider that a good thing given Google’s policies that arguably infringe on individual privacy.

Google has now a new CEO, Sundar Pichai, who hails from the other side of the world. At 43 years his rise to the dizzy height of corporate world in just 20 years is phenomenal. Known as a very amiable person and the kind that doesn’t hog the limelight, it will be interesting to see if his tenure at the helm make any significant shift in the usual corporate view of the people as faceless billions that can be organised and manipulated to increase the wealth and influence of global corporations and super governments ruling over people with the strong arms of police and military. Will it make any difference that he is from a country where its highest visionaries declared the world as a family and humans as beings with an evolving divine presence? I find it interesting to read about the life of the man who as a child travelled by crowded public transport and had no TV at home, in India – for signs of potential, from the flurry of reports about him in the media. It makes promising reading.

Sundar_Pichai by Maurizio Pesce, Image posted under the Creative Common license.

Excerpts from Times of India issue dated 11 Aug, 2015 quoting a report on Bloomsberg in early 2014:

The family of four lived in a two-room apartment, with Sundar and his younger brother sleeping in the living room. During much of his childhood, the Pichais didn’t have a television or a car. For transportation, the choice was either one of the crowded, stifling city buses or the family’s blue Lambretta scooter. All four would pile on — Regunatha driving, Sundar standing at the front, and his younger brother perched on the back of the seat with their mother.

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Pichai excelled at school and won a coveted spot at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, where he studied engineering. After graduating, he won an additional scholarship to Stanford University to study materials science and semiconductor physics.

Pichai’s father tried to take out a loan to cover the cost of the plane ticket and other expenses. When it didn’t come through in time, he withdrew $1,000 from the family’s savings — more than his annual salary. “My dad and mom did what a lot of parents did at the time,” Pichai says. “They sacrificed a lot of their life and used a lot of their disposable income to make sure their children were educated.”

Upon arriving at Stanford in 1993, he tried to buy a new backpack and “was in an absolute state of shock” to learn it cost $60. He later bought a used one on an online bulletin board. Pichai lived with a host family during his first year and spent much of the time miserably lamenting the absence of his girlfriend, Anjali, who later joined him in the US and is now his wife.

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After getting an MBA from the Wharton School of Business in 2002 and spending a stint as a consultant at McKinsey, Pichai arrived at the Googleplex on April 1, 2004. On the day of his job interview, Google launched Gmail, the free email service. Pichai says he thought it was one of the company’s famous April Fools’ pranks.

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Excerpts from Wall Street Journal issue dated 11 Aug, 2015

And when Mr. Pichai assumes his new role later this year, he will oversee nearly all of the $66 billion in annual revenue of the soon-to-be-renamed Alphabet Inc., including the world’s leading online-advertising platform.

That will free Mr. Page and co-founder Sergey Brin to spend more time on Google’s array of emerging businesses and technologies, from its Nest smart-home devices to self-driving carsrobots and cutting-edge research on extending human life.

Unlike some other Google executives, Mr. Pichai is a private man, not famous for racing sports cars or parachuting into Burning Man.

“Humble,” says Keval Desai, a former Google colleague. “He’s very smart, very opinionated and very low key.”

Mr. Pichai’s ascent reflects his ability to create strong products, including Google’s Chrome browser, and later the Chrome operating system. But it also shows his ability to identify competitive pressures, manage others and smooth over differences, both internally and with Google’s business partners.

In a culture sometimes driven by heated arguments and oversize egos, Mr. Pichai is something of an anomaly, a successful executive who doesn’t insist on his position, even when there are strong arguments on his side. He developed a reputation as the kind of person you wanted in the room when decisions were being made.

“He has great relationships,” said Minnie Ingersoll, a former Google product manager who worked with Mr. Pichai early in his career. “He’s just not a polarizing figure.”

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This week’s changes expand Mr. Pichai’s power even further, beyond the core product groups that he’d been assigned last year, and giving him authority over executives who had previously reported to Mr. Page. These new reports include YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Google General Counsel Kent Walker, and Don Harrison, head of corporate development.

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