Whenever you get a group of people together there’s going to be chemistry, or lack thereof. Dynamics between individuals are made up of one’s personality, culture, upbringing – everything that makes you, you. The workplace is no exception. People have their own ideas, their own way of doing things, and in order to make it the best work environment it can be, learning to navigate the politics of the office is not only a lifelong skill that’s fundamental to a long-term career, it’s necessary for your own sanity.
Let alone being good at what your job actually is, you also need to master the office, its people, and their personalities. Getting bogged down in office drama, politics, and clicks can make or break a position. On May 17th, the Wall Street Journal put out a great article that took office personalities and placed them in a “meeting” situation to illustrate just how detrimental a disagreeable employee can be to a group’s goals, agendas, and participants. It is a great read and I encourage you to read the full WSJ write-up (we’re giving you the benefit of the doubt that you’re not one of those disagreeable employees who interrupt with jokes, or the naysayer who rejects every idea that someone comes up with).
Inspired by that article, here are a few pointers that I’ve picked up along the way when trying to avoid office politics:
- Don’t be a ‘Negative Nancy’
As the WSJ article points to, there’s a naysayer in nearly every dynamic – the person who, despite efforts made by others, appreciates nothing and disagrees with everything. They aren’t open to new ideas, they shoot down initiatives, and more likely than not, they don’t offer up solutions. They literally function to say “no.”Point Taken: Be open-minded to others’ points of view, and if you don’t agree with an idea, offer up an alternative.
- Rise Above
Nitpicking, overthinking, and stooping into the office muck will keep you just there – in the muck. Be the team member who doesn’t gossip about the company, management, or one another. This type of behavior will lead you nowhere. I promise. A great manager of mine once said, “there is always a place for a positive person in an organization”. Others gravitate towards that person and they make a workplace better. Be that person. Not only does it give you more job security, but you and everyone else around you will be happier for it.Point Taken: No drama-mamas get promoted.
- Lead by Fact, Not by Emotion
Be able to differentiate when you’re reacting with emotion, and when you need to take a step back, calm down, and then allow yourself to re-engage and address an issue. This critical step will save you from compulsive, irrational decisions. Leaders and those around you will appreciate level-headedness and the ability to act rationally. It is easy to get caught up in the emotions of people around you in a heated or controversial situation. The better person will be able to maintain composure as the heat is turned up.Point Taken: “Don’t make a permanent decision based on temporary feelings.”
- Empower people in making decisions
The WSJ also called attention to the “dominator.” This type of personality – not to be confused with a strong personality, which can be good when appropriately leveraged – causes belittling and bullying, and can be harmful not only to the organization at large, but also to those who they’re actually dominating. Listen openly and sanction second thoughts and new ideas – you’ll find that perhaps you don’t know it all and when others contribute it makes them feel empowered and tied into the goals and objectives of the organization.Point Taken: “Be wary of leaders who keep their followers in a state of continual dependence.” Be not a dictator, but someone who is empowering, endorsing, and helpful.
- Build Relationships
There are many types of personalities within a company – titled leadership, informal leaders, cheerleaders, detractors, etc. – learn to coordinate with all of them. The people who have been the most successful within an organization are those who learned, and at an early point, to be open-minded and approachable by everyone.Point Taken: The more universal you are, the more people will respect you, appreciate you, and want to promote you.
We don’t like to think it is, but the workplace is a lot like high school, or the sandbox in middle school, there’s a promoter, a go-getter, a bully, a prankster – and then there’s YOU. Be everyone’s friend and nobody’s best friend. Stay out of the drama because trust me; these types of politics are nothing you want to build a career around.