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Office Politics – What do I do?

March 16, 2011
Chess with champagne !

Image by Mukumbura via Flickr

The bane of our lives… At least for those of us, who dislike “The Game”

I had an encounter today, and it set me thinking, got me into a reflective mood where I went though my journey of how I managed to deal with this nasty bit of work.

See how I talk about it? I guess it’s clear…I HATED politics. Still do, but I am a lot calmer about it. So I thought I’d share some of my own learning. I’m sure there are some people out there who could use some advice. Some guidance.

It OK to hate politics. Its stupid not to recognize or understand the political nuances at your workplace, or in your Rotary club or the Golf Club.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking you to play politics. The fewer of us who play it, the sooner we will live in a world bereft of it. But till that happens,

Step 1. Acceptance. Admit, understand and believe that politics is a part of your life. Always will be.

Step 2. Learn to understand and recognize politics. I’m not saying play politics. I’m saying you need to know which are the teams out there. Who are the players. Who’s the captain. Who’s playing left field. Get the picture? Understand the power structure and the political hierarchy.

How do you do this? Befriend someone who understands. This person maybe like you, a bystander. Or a player, but someone who doesn’t see you as a threat. They will help you understand. Tap into the grapevine. It’s essential!

Step 3. Understand the minefield. Learn where the key trigger-points are. What to do, what not to do. Know where the mines are and how to find a safe way around the danger spots.

Step 4. Find an ally. Ensure you have an ally who is a key figure in this game. Don’t get me wrong again. I’m not saying you play the game, or aid/abet/assist in any way. All I’m saying is, be good at what you do. Be honest to your job/role. But ensure you have someone who is ready to stand for you and support you. Because sometimes even innocent bystanders get shot.

Libra Hated

Image via Wikipedia

Step 5. Stay clean. Don’t align with any camp. Don’t be caught saying the wrong thing in the wrong place. We all get frustrated and sometimes say something out of line. Stay away from that temptation.

Step 6. Lastly, stay non-aligned. No camps. No sides. Focus on your work, your priorities and you will be fine as long as you deliver results.

How will you know if your ally/friend is the right one…there will be others like you who will know. Don’t decide too soon. Stay a while in the system, get to know it, before you make your choices.

It’s not easy in the beginning, but over time it becomes a skill just like walking. And you’ll do just fine.

Rishi Raj Gupta (a friend and very dynamic HR professional) puts it very well“I manage the game by not being involved, yet by being informed”

Would love to hear your stories of how you handled office politics. Leave a note!

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2013 8:53 am

    Hi gurprrietsiingh. I love your post. I agree, finding an ally who knows the ropes and has a realistic perspective of who the power players within the company are is one of the best things you can do.

    Your post reminds me of the movie Get the Gringo where the main character (Mel Gibson) has to find a way to survive a Mexican prison. You hear his thought process of how he identifies who the power players are and you see him make an ally with a kid who knows the ropes and has some powerful leverage as well.

  2. Supreet permalink
    March 29, 2011 2:46 pm

    It’s an ignorant being who claims there is no politics @ the office. I’ve found it easier to deal with it by doing the job at hand the best i can and loving my work. I talk about my frustrating moments and give vent at home with my husband and avoid playing sides. Sad thing is, you end up with very few friends at the workplace, but the great thing is, you know those few that are, are the best!
    Very nice and insightful article!

  3. Mr X permalink
    March 24, 2011 12:43 am

    Do no wrong fear no-one!

    That has been the policy.

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      March 24, 2011 12:56 am

      And the award for the most succinct but valuable input goes to Mr.X!

      Well said…

  4. March 22, 2011 12:01 am

    This one is a stellar and indeed gives me a broader picture of the kind of P playing @ my office. Confused and unable to comprehend how to deal when you’re being tossed onto the left and right, stumbling upon your writeup is a huge assurance for me. Loved the part “I manage the game by not being involved, yet by being informed”. Cheers Gurprriet 🙂

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      March 22, 2011 12:24 am

      I’m glad I was able to help Akanksha.. And I must add, that the first step for you to find freedom is to get out of denial/judgment. Politics has been around since the bible or ramayana or mahabharata, whichever you believe. You can’t wish it away. The moment you accept it, you’ll deal wit it much better. And with time you will develop the skill to understand the minefield and to successfully navigate it!

  5. Neha Chopra permalink
    March 18, 2011 9:31 pm

    Look what I stumbled upon…………a blog from you. Must say very well written and appropriate – especially for ignorant fools such as myself who said a few years ago – I want to get into an organisation which is ” politics germ free”. DUHHH – and what did I ever think, I would safely have it land on my lap as though God wanted to bestow the unimaginable. So I started to learn from it – and some of my dear friends, ex bosses taught me how to – However your perspective is so clear and objective. I wish there would be more and more who would read through and learn.
    Please keep writing – keeps you hopeful of some sanity and good advice always. God bless your writing.
    As I read somewhere – The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say / express.

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      March 22, 2011 12:21 am

      I write this blog especially for young professionals like you Neha. You are the future…If I can influence you to be better than the past, then the future is going to be a better place!

  6. vijeesh shankar permalink
    March 18, 2011 4:36 pm

    Interesting read! I keep advising my friends on the same. Dont be part of corporate politics, but then dont stay away from it. Try and judge people and stay neutral.

  7. Sushama permalink
    March 17, 2011 10:59 pm

    The big “P”of the corporate world. All of us are slave to it. Many succumb, and play the game. You can’t live without it, so learn to live with it. And there are a few of us who just follow the unconventional path and not play the “P” game. In the big picture, it may pay to be aware of the rules of the game, yet not play it.

    Cheers!

  8. March 17, 2011 10:50 pm

    Interesting reading Gurprriet !!

    But I sometimes find that though you are not political, be good at what you do, stay clean, have a strong ally, be informed yet you tend to get sucked into the whirlpool !!

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      March 17, 2011 11:43 pm

      In an ideal world you’d stay completely removed from it. But an ideal world this is not. When you choose to walk on the beach, you will get some sand on your clothes, no matter how careful you are.

      And if it’s not sand, its mud, or pollen, or thorns… Politics is everywhere.. Ask Chanakya 🙂

      • January 29, 2013 8:57 am

        “When you choose to walk on the beach, you will get some sand on your clothes, no matter how careful you are.”

        Did you come up with this yourself? I really like it!

  9. March 17, 2011 8:51 pm

    good post as usual sir!

  10. Shreya Agrawal permalink
    March 17, 2011 4:42 pm

    A newbie in corporate, stayed non-aligned, stayed clean, had a strong ally , yet refused to Accept , to recognize the big P. rather, ignored the politics. But now i should say, learning is always fun ! I grow as i learn.

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      March 17, 2011 4:54 pm

      Shreya

      You take me back 20 years 🙂 back to when I was a newbie, and I absolutely refused to acknowledge politics. Trust me, I committed harakiri! I’m glad you’ve realized that there are things to learn. My advice, every jungle has different rules. The quicker you learn the rules, the sooner you will give of your best. Cheers!

  11. Rishi Raj permalink
    March 17, 2011 4:21 pm

    I really liked this piece. I manage the game by not being involved, yet by being informed. I learnt early on the difference between a supporter and an advocate, and try to keep strong advocates around.

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      March 17, 2011 4:44 pm

      Rishi

      As always, you’ve done it again! “I manage the game by not being involved but by being informed”! Awesome! So well put! I’m going to add this to the blog. Thanks!

  12. Kirthan permalink
    March 17, 2011 11:31 am

    Superb Stuff !

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