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Navigating office politics in a remote work setup

by Aripriya Basu December 15, 2020
office politics

If you think state politics are bad, try having a whiff of office politics. 

It’s the worse kind of politics you can be a part of…

…and if you want to wiggle your way out of it, you should get a hang of playing chess, or working from home. 

Thankfully, the latter has been granted to all of us due to the green spiked virus. 

It’s curious though. 

  • COVID 19 (an alleged man-made virus)
  • Office politics (the favorite sport of a corporate individual)

The man seems to be the common factor in both cases. Makes us wonder where the problem actually lies 😉

Right now, staying away from other humans is what the government and the WHO wants us to do. 

It’s for the general good you see. 

No contact with human means:

  • A flattened virus curve
  • Lesser chances of office politics

At least this year if and when you get a promotion there won’t be a murmur about who’s the “boss’ favorite”.

You don’t have to worry about the gossip that stopped abruptly near the water cooler as you stepped in for a break. 

Working from home has its benefits after all. You can sleep well at night without having to worry about dealing with office politics the next day. 

However, you are not yet in the clearing. 

Thanks to digital advancement and innovation, your colleagues are still “talking”. Opinions are being formed and snide comments are still being made. 

The very tools which are supposed to make communication easy are adding to digital office politics. 

Want to get out of it? 

Then try these best practices to avoid office politics while working peacefully from home. 

  • Reaching out to juniors and seniors

The only way to change a structure is by being inside it. The same applies to office politics too.

Well, if you don’t know what is happening how will you develop a protection plan? 

For this purpose, talk to your juniors, colleagues, and supervisors on a regular basis. Try to understand their perspective. 

What is bothering them? Are they upset? What are their expectations?

But the question is – what will you do with all this information? 

These pieces of information are important for you because they will give a clear idea about the state of mind of your colleagues. 

Based on these pieces of information you can plan your communication strategy with them to avoid any form of office politics.

  • Pass on information

Before helping others, help yourself. This is one unwritten law on how to avoid office politics. 

One of the biggest reasons to fall for office politics is the lack of information or clarity. When there is a dearth of information, people make up stories to fill in the gap. 

These stories convert into gossip and are transported from one department to another like Chinese Whisper. 

Want to know how to win at office politics?

Then roll up your sleeves and gather information. Ask questions to the management. Get your doubts cleared. 

Once you have achieved this step, pass on the information to the rest of your colleagues. 

The result?

Well, it might not stop office politics right away, but at least the rumors which in turn might have given way to gossip can be arrested. 

That’s good for starters 

  • Go back to school

Do you remember your high school days? One day all your classmates are happy to see you, wishing you in the hallway. 

The very next day they are turning their faces away?

Well, if not to that extreme, office politics is pretty much like high school. Everyone has their own opinion.

But you have come a long way from high school. You are all grown up now.

So what suggestions and advice would you give your high school self?

Chew on that while trying to avoid office politics. 

  • Talk to your Boss

Having trouble with that new project? A team member giving you a hard time?

Want to know if you are getting promoted this season?

Don’t let any of these questions travel through the grapevine. 

Reach out to your boss directly. 

Whatever the answer is, you will hear it from the horse’s mouth

Not only can you catch a breather, but you will also not have to listen to sentences beginning with ‘Rumours have it”

Cut yourself some slack. You already have a lot on your plate. 

  • Choose your friends carefully

First of all, your workplace isn’t a place for you to make friends. That ship has sailed long back with your college days.

You are there to work. They are there to work. 

However, it does not mean that you have to hate them or be nonchalant to them. Working together on a project and performing at your best will require comfort and compatibility amongst the teammates.

Keep it at that.

Identify the colleagues who are there to help you in times of need. The ones who are genuinely happy when you get a promotion (hard to find) and the ones who are chill to hang out with after office hours. 

Similarly, identify the bad apples in the basket. These are the ones who are quick to bring “information” to you. 

Trust your vibe in this case. Do what your gut tells you to. Remember high school? 

Yeah, play by that. 

  • Don’t talk negatively about work

Not every day is going to be a walk in the Park at work.

Somedays you will have to make it through Jurassic Parks as well. Brace yourself for that.

Of course, you can vent out about the pressure to a colleague, we all do it once in a while, but don’t turn that into daily practice. 

You never know when your colleague might spill the beans to the project manager or the boss. 

Not to mention, the information may be marinated with exotic spices. So be calm. 

Don’t go on venting. If you are taxed with the work or about anything else regarding work, talk to your supervisor or boss directly. 

Better safe than sorry!

  • Identify the informal network

A wise person once said – speak less observe more. 

God knows if the person was talking about how to win at office politics because this is a golden rule. 

If you want to avoid office politics, stick tape on your mouth and keep your eyes and ears open. 

This will help you identify the informal network that operates within the formal one.

Each workspace has groups. In fact, all humans like to belong to a group. 

You can observe this activity at an arm’s length in your workplace. 

Identify what are these groups based on. Is it a common interest? Mutual respect? Romantic interest?

Once you have got yourself this far, identify who leads the group? Are there any examples of office politics you find in these groups?

If yes, how are the group members dealing with it? 

Since you cannot stay outside a group even while working from home, might as well know the rules of playing in the same. 

  • Long term thinking

This is important for your growth in life not just work. 

Even though you might be trying to stay far away from office politics, it might find it’s way to you some way or the other. 

One fine day you might hear something about yourself at work you had no idea about! 

See, that’s the fun of rumors. You get to know things about yourself you had no clue about. 

However, it might taint your reputation at the workplace if it reaches your project manager or boss. 

Even if you come out clean of it, the desire to get back to the person who started the gossip is overpowering. 

But you need to reign those horses. 

You might have the best opportunity to serve cold revenge, try not to take it. 

But why not?

Well, who knows when this guy might come in handy in the long run. 

You have cleaned your image anyway. Why not just forget the incident. 

After all, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. 

  • Don’t start a gossip

Do you know which dish cooks quicker than Maggi? 

Gossip.

If you start a quirky one this moment it can inflate into a huge ball within hours and might as well squash you under it. 

So learn from Doctor Waldman, and don’t create a Frankestine

  • They know

There is no need to assume that your employers only know about running the business. They are in fact in the business of knowing everything that goes on in the business.

So, it’s alright to assume that they know the trouble makers at work. You will do yourself a favor if you try not to be one of them.

Enjoy your work. Learn from it. Grow as a person and not as the gossip machine. 

That’s how you can avoid office politics. 

FAQs

What is office politics?

Office politics or organizational politics can be understood as a process of human behavior while interactions are at play. Generally, office politics involves power and authority to achieve one’s goal within the workplace operations.

Can you avoid office politics?

Most timid people try to avoid office politics. However, it’s difficult to get past it. Even while working from home, office politics seeps in. This is because working in a team involves some amount of politics. However, one should try to distance from the same as much as possible. While small interactions are okay, one should know where to draw a line. 

How can you deal with office politics? 

There are multiple ways of avoiding office politics. Some of them are:

  • Building trust
  • Communicating with supervisors effectively
  • Identifying friends at work
  • Not gossiping