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Office politics: how to come out on top

A few straightforward office-style habits can help you to achieve this

‘Office politics’ is often a euphemism for workplace disagreements; however, as all top performers know, there is more to it than this. Office politics is about building relationships and good communication – get this right and everything becomes simpler.

1. Choose your battles

No one likes to be challenged professionally, but this can be a daily reality in the workplace. While a Machiavellian guide might suggest you crush all and every attack, aggressive reactions at work will generally only create more resistance in future. Winning at modern office politics requires you to come across as the better person, such as by turning the other cheek.

2. Know what you want

Disagreements are the result of differences in opinion; however, it is all too easy to confuse this opinion with the person expressing it. If this person is someone who you regularly face off against, the circle of conflict can be toxic for both you and the business. Define your objective and look for ways to secure it while still allowing the other person to save face, making it business rather than personal.

3. Work within your circle of influence

In large offices, it is common enough to receive mandates from above that compromise our activities and that we can do nothing about. Complaining about these to everyone in earshot is one way to dispel the negative feelings short term, but this does nothing to change the situation. Find out what you can do to reduce the negative impacts of these new orders without undermining them; in this way, you will be seen as a person who works best within the given circumstances.

4. Stay neutral

When people go on the warpath, they tend to look to assemble troops. If these are office peers, it can get difficult enough; when the players are senior to you, it can be deadly.

Don’t fall for your department head suddenly sending you jokey emails about someone else. Stay polite and professional and, most importantly, out of the conflict. When the dust blows over, the seniors will have to forgive and forget, but you may be expendable enough that the mud will stick.

6. It is better to understand than be understood

Pride comes before a fall and nowhere is this truer than in the office. When conflicts arise, make sure you understand where the other person is coming from rather than trying to make them understand your position. Ask for clarification, but don’t mock their concerns.

Once you grasp their core issue, try to find a solution. If they go off track and get personal, always bring them back to their primary concern without berating them for having strayed.

In the end, office politics is not about winning or losing; instead, it is about coming out on top. It is good to remember that we can all come out on top if we work together.

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