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Office Politics is the New Flu

Office Politics is the New Flu

Office politics are like the flu. Most of us know that there’s nothing worse for morale than getting tangled up in workplace politics. No matter how much you want to avoid them, there’s no absolute way to ensure that you can stay away from office politics.

Like the flu, office politics are highly contagious. Sometimes things your coworkers are talking about include useful information, but other times, gossips just mean trouble. With each new person that becomes involved, the issues spread. Before long, people are at each other’s throats, undercutting one another, and worrying about whether they’ll keep their jobs.

If you don’t catch and treat the symptoms of office politics early, they can spread like wildfire and paralyze your organization.

The Flu Incubates Silently

Much like influenza is triggered by environmental factors, office politics require a certain environment to infect a work place. Whenever a company undergoes change, politics can come to light. The changes could be as simple as promoting a new manager, firing an employee, expanding the company, or downsizing.

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    In the same way that the flu affects those with weakened immune systems first, office politics start with weak employees. Staff members who only care about their success without worrying about the company tend to be affected first.

      People who care only for themselves without thinking about the needs of the company can be disastrous for workplace culture. They treat people who agree with them well, and they reject anyone with a different opinion.

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      When the office gossips become involved, the disease spreads. A lack of transparency regarding policies about performance evaluations and promotions intensifies the political situation. Employees start competing with each other instead of working together, and progress ceases.

      It’s Highly Contagious

      Policies combined with certain personalities enable office politics to take over a workplace quickly. At first, the symptoms are mild. Perhaps a few people feel resentful toward one person, and they chat about them behind their back.

      Think of this as the way you feel when you are just coming down with the flu. Maybe you started coughing, your nose was a bit runny, or you felt a chill. Sure, you can probably get through your day just fine, but these symptoms are warning you that a bigger problem is on the way.

      What started out as a little gossip rapidly turns into a situation in which a small group gangs up against one person. In response, the person may form a posse of their own. Before you know it, they’re competing for a spot at the top of the company instead of working together for the good of the organization.

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      This wouldn’t be a huge deal except that eventually this affects everyone in the office. Even those who aren’t interested in getting involved may be dragged into the dispute. Employees who do not become involved may quit because of the working environment.

      At this point, everyone is unhappy at work. The quality of work decreases as employee stress increases. Company outputs come to a grinding halt.

        Build a Strong Immune System

        When the flu starts going around, people have a number of reactions. Some ignore the symptoms and feel sicker. Others rest, take medicine, and drink plenty of water to help with recovery. Others do their best to prevent it, and even though they may still come down with it, they usually know what they need to do to get better.

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        The same is true for office politics. Politics may affect people differently, but the key is to get better quickly and build a stronger immune system. Here are some ways to do it:

        1. Hire wisely. Preventing office politics from becoming a problem starts during hiring. When an organization finds a person with the ambition to support the company’s goals instead of focusing solely on personal success, they are worth hanging on to.
        2. Be fair and clear about expectations. Organizations need ground rules so that everyone can have a rewarding work experience. Maintaining transparency so that employees understand how and why decisions are made reduces chatter. Making sure that the workload is distributed fairly, prohibiting gossip, and giving people the chance to voice their opinions constructively can be a big help.
        3. Look out for signs of trouble. If everyone–especially leadership– keeps an eye on the workplace’s culture, you’ll be able to spot the symptoms of office politics when they first start instead of waiting for productivity to suffer.

        Treat the Symptoms as Soon as You Sense Them

        Don’t allow the contagion to continue spreading. When you know there’s a problem, tackle it head on.

        • Root out the origin. Office politics usually start with one person or a handful of people. Identify and talk to that person to figure out what is driving the drama. This can help you determine if the issue started because of problems with management or hiring. Sometimes a polite chat can reverse the damage right away.
        • Know when to say goodbye. If the person can’t understand the consequences of their actions, or if they aren’t willing to listen, they may not be a good fit for your office. Let them go to save your office culture.

        You may not be in a position to hire and fire people, but you still have a responsibility to care about your company’s culture. If you see something concerning, bring it up with your manager so that they can handle it proactively.

        Leadership that cares will spring into action to stop the illness from spreading. Managers with bad intentions will choose to do nothing. If you bring a concern to your leadership and they refuse to come up with a solution, it may be time for you to move on. You need to be in an environment that won’t stunt your professional growth.

        Nobody Is 100% Immune to the Flu of Office Politics

        The best way to cure office politics is to stop them as soon as they start. Even if you try your best to stay out of them, they can very quickly make your workplace stressful and unpleasant. The best thing you can do is recognize the signs of trouble early so that you or your leadership team can treat the contagion before it infects everyone.

        More by this author

        Anna Chui

        Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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        Last Updated on September 25, 2019

        How to Tell the Social Anxiety Symptoms from Signs of Introversion 

        How to Tell the Social Anxiety Symptoms from Signs of Introversion 

        The symptoms of social anxiety can be misinterpreted as introversion but they are very different.

        Social anxiety is self-induced while introversion is a personality trait. In terms of behaviors and reactions, the two are similar. But, there are also some very big key differences.

        A person with social anxiety may feel mentally drained in a crowd full of people and unable to function, yet so can someone who is an introvert given the right circumstances. Both, at times, may feel hindered when it comes time to perform a task or talk with others, but the reasoning behind these feelings is very different.

        With both social anxiety and introversion, a person may willingly trying to vanish into the background to escape a party or make excuses to cancel plans.

        Communicating and dealing with others can seemingly present the same set of challenges on both sides of the spectrum, but only one of them is an actual issue. It can be easy to jump to a conclusion and give it all the same label, but it’s important to note that they are not the same.

        Maybe you have asked yourself why it’s so difficult being with peers or to attend social events without a cluster of symptoms interfering.

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        In this case, you could be either an introvert or have social anxiety. In this article, I’ll break down the differences between the two.

        The Symptoms of Social Anxiety

        Social anxiety stems from incessant thoughts and unnecessary worries upon entering a room filled with people.

        The moment your presence is acknowledged, symptoms begin to wreak their havoc—the sweaty palms, heart racing, and thoughts racing.

        A feeling of doom about screwing something up or botching it with an important contact can be enough to make you want to hide under a table.

        You might characterize the discomfort as stress or high stakes and not recognize that it’s anxiety driving your symptoms. The biggest difficulty someone with social anxiety faces is communicating with peers, especially if they have speech delays.

        You might feel the need to measure up and have more pressure to act normal. You might worry that you’re overdoing everything or over compensating to fit in and get on the same level platform as everybody else. Fears of keeping up with conversation may be plaguing. Mental exhaustion takes its toll and already, you’re drained before anything has started.

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        Many people with social anxiety feel as if they are constantly being judged. You may think that someone is rolling their eyes at every word you say. Everyone is opposed to your ideas and your contributions to a conversation, so you end the dialogue or look for excuses to leave the room.

        You may also fear that you’ll offend somebody somehow. There are topics you’ll avoid like you would the flu and when the panic comes on, you may experience moments of paralysis. Not to mention that dreaded silence or what I like to call, white noise.

        A group of people surrounding you can feel similar to a deer frozen in the headlights. In your mind, simply talking to somebody is the same as over-exerting yourself while exercising. Simply talking to more than one individual is like you’re singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl when all you’re doing is exchanging thoughts and ideas. Still, you’re nerve-wracked and it’s enough to enter the fight or flight response (but really, you just want to flee, now).

        According to Psychology Today, when anxiety was first discovered in the seventies and eighties, it was called, phobia. Social anxiety would have been called social phobia. Even if you have it, that doesn’t mean you hate being around people. It also doesn’t mean that you’re afraid to socialize. However, the symptoms can leave you with unnecessary fears and insecurities.

        According to the DSM-5, (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition), there are 10 diagnostic criteria for Social Anxiety disorder. These include:

        1. fear or anxiety specific to social settings, in which a person feels noticed, observed, or scrutinized. In a adult, this could include a first date, a job interview, meeting someone for the first time, delivering an oral presentation, or speaking in a class or meeting. In children, the phobic/avoidant behaviors must occur in settings with peers, rather than adult interactions, and will be expressed in terms of age appropriate distress, such as cringing, crying, or otherwise displaying obvious fear or discomfort.
        2. typically the individual will fear that they will display their anxiety and experience social rejection,
        3. social interaction will consistently provoke distress,
        4. social interactions are either avoided, or painfully and reluctantly endured,
        5. the fear and anxiety will be grossly disproportionate to the actual situation,
        6. the fear, anxiety or other distress around social situations will persist for six months or longer and
        7. cause personal distress and impairment of functioning in one or more domains, such as interpersonal or occupational functioning,
        8. the fear or anxiety cannot be attributed to a medical disorder, substance use, or adverse medication effects or
        9. another mental disorder, and
        10. if another medical condition is present which may cause the individual to be excessively self conscious- e.g., prominent facial scar, the fear and anxiety are either unrelated, or disproportionate. The clinician may also include the specifier that the social anxiety is performance situation specific – e.g., oral presentations (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

        As you can see, social anxiety can cause quite a significant disruption in someone’s life. Quite different from simply being an introvert.

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        Signs You’re an Introvert

        Introverts make up about 50% of the population; while the remainder are extraverts. There is also a term called ambivert, which describes people who fall in the middle of the two. The main differences between introverts and extraverts is the way that they recharge. For example, if an extravert is feeling drained, they may get energized by being around others. If an introvert is drained, they most likely prefer to recharge alone.

        Introversion is deeply rooted in someone’s personality. If a child is an introvert, a parent or sibling might also be one. An introvert turns within themselves, their thoughts, and does not generally need to seek stimulation from social interaction.

        For many introverts, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in work environments if there is too much commotion. This is also true for someone with social anxiety, which is why you might be having a difficult time distinguishing the two.

        An anxious person finds the stimulation mentally exhausting and avoids going to social gatherings at all costs or as less often as possible. An introvert wouldn’t avoid social interaction, but they need time to themselves to unwind, relax, and get to a place where they can shake off stress from their day. Even if you aren’t an introvert, this fact might apply to almost everybody.

        Instead of going from work right to a social gathering, introverts may need an hour or two to clear their heads. Or, they may feel drained from a happy hour outing (even if they had fun!) and need to recharge by being alone. Oftentimes, they do still want to socialize, but might be better in smaller groups.

        Introverts are often detail oriented, mostly analyzers and are hyper aware of themselves or of others. If critical thinking on a situation is involved, introverts work best alone.

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        Other people will often be the ones coming to you for advice or opinions on topics or issues in their lives. If you’re an introvert, you’re also a solutions-oriented person meaning you are your own problem solver, which is a great quality to have.

        It’s important to mention that you can, in fact, be an introverted person with social anxiety; but, if you don’t meet the DSM-5 criteria above, then there is a good chance that you’re simply an introvert. And that’s totally okay.

        Final Thoughts

        Whether you have social anxiety or are an introvert, you possess the abilities to relate and connect with others. You can overcome social anxiety by being out with friends or peers on a more regular basis. Keep a journal and track your trigger symptoms after an afternoon or night out.

        Many therapists suggest that the socially anxious individual challenges themselves with questions to ease nerves before leaving the house. Ask yourself if you have in fact ever messed up something so monumental that it ruined your life. You’ll probably find that a lot of other people share the same kind of anxiety as you.

        You don’t need to live in fear and skip out on opportunities to avoid humiliation or embarrassment. Anxiety obscures your thinking and judgment and it’s imperative to address and treat the symptoms in a way that is best for you. The brain and mind thrive on routines for a reason—to help you overcome these hurdles and branch out. This also applies to introverts. Try implementing lifestyle practices to minimize stress long before social or work outings.

        You can also overcome the anxiety by practicing mindfulness and meditations to ease the symptoms. Affirmations before you go out can rewire the brain and keep you from worrying needlessly. It might be worthwhile to take a theater class to get yourself out of your comfort zone. Enrichment classes might be another useful resource to get you to a better mindset and a way to regularly work on your anxiety. There are many ways to alleviate stress and find balance so you can be successful in future pursuits.

        Featured photo credit: mvp via unsplash.com

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