Office politics (n): the activities, attitudes, or behaviours that are used to get or keep power or an advantage within a business or company.

More commonly defined, office politics is about the differences in opinions, and conflicts of interests between people in the workplace.

Office politics is something we would all much rather avoid, and yet not all of us are lucky enough to work in an environment that is peaceful and harmonious, few of us are. Truth is, office politics is a fact of life in any organisation and while you would love to run from it or be oblivious to it, you can’t, and you shouldn’t. Especially if you are an ambitious career woman in a male-dominated space.  More times than not, it perpetuates the glass ceiling if not handled correctly.

The term “office politics” often holds a negative connotation, being synonymous with power-play, sabotage, wheeling and dealing all at the expense of others or the greater good. However, this isn’t always the case. Introducing “good” office politics, which can help you promote yourself and your cause, and is often called networking or stakeholder management. To achieve career success and success on your projects, you need to learn to navigate the warzone that is office politics. Denying or ignoring bad office politics will lead to your detriment, while engaging in good office politics will open a new wave of opportunities and help you further your own interests, those of your team, and of your organisation.

The best way one can win at good office politics is to build relationships. Meaningful and genuine relationships based on trust and respect can help you be more effective and they promote job satisfaction. Establish relationships that surpass the formal hierarchy in all directions, that is, with colleagues, supervisors, executives, etc… Another way in which you can spin office politics is to be fully knowledgeable on your organisational culture- know the organisation’s vision and mission, the formal and informal influencers within the organisation, and the different social groups present within your workspace. This will help you align your personal interests with that of the organisation and its people. Lastly, once you have identified what works and what doesn’t in your organisational culture, you can identify and model successful behaviours. Not only will this further your position in the company, thus expanding your career, but it will ensure that you play your part in making the office a cohesive unit.

No one enjoys a hostile working environment wherein everybody has their guard up and lives in constant paranoia. The trick to eliminating harmful office politics starts with you. It not only benefits you as a working individual, but your entire organisation as well.