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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.

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        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 August 16, 2019

        15 Smart Ways to Approach Interpersonal Relationships at Work

        15 Smart Ways to Approach Interpersonal Relationships at Work

        Once you have embarked on your professional life, whether it is after college or high school, you will be making a transition to the workplace. If possible, it is good to find an employer that is flexible. In other words, one that possesses a culture that is diverse and tailors to the needs of its employees as a bottom line.

        But, even if you don’t land your dream job right away, there are many ways to improve your experiences within the workplace as you climb the career ladder.

        In the subsequent sections will be looking over ways to engage your relationships at work, including 15 ways to effectively approach interpersonal relationships at the workplace.

        1. Open Up Cautiously

        Depending on if its a startup, a small business, enterprise or corporation it’s important to be aware of your surroundings.

        Be mindful of how much you open up about yourself, specifically regarding your personal life. You do not want to give the wrong impression, so be careful how much or what details you divulge about being in a relationship or having children.

        You have to reach a certain comfort level and rapport with the rest of the staff to be able to engage in transparent conversations. A good general guideline is to stick to small talk.

        2. Observe Your Surroundings

        There will be times when we are summoned to have a leadership role or to undertake a project to lead a team.

        Try not to be too bold or overcompensate at every turn when there is a meeting or an interaction among other staff or employees. The last thing you want to do is to be the person who wants to monopolize every conversation and every interaction.

        Be a passive observer at first, and more often than not, you will learn a lot by letting others talk a lot about themselves.

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        3. Listen Actively

        It may seem redundant, but it is essential to practice the art of really listening to the other person.

        Developing interpersonal skills and connections with others at work comes down to listening. It is not just paraphrasing what your superiors or colleagues are trying to communicate; it is about understanding what is at the core and reading between the lines.

        Phrases like “I can see what you are saying” or “I can acknowledge your insight” are just some examples. Learn to empathize and relate with people with whom you have a genuine connection.

        4. Consolidate All Feedback

        When you learn to listen to others and to allow them to finish their thoughts you are on your way to be being a great communicator.

        One of the toughest tasks to accomplish is to include everyone’s voice. Don’t rely on shout-outs or trying to come up with the best answer. Including everyone’s voice is about listening to all suggestions and putting together an entire picture. When everyone feels part of the process there is great cohesion.

        5. Never Make Sweeping Judgements

        As person and a human being with compassion never make any assumptions about anyone.

        Just because they have a certain skin color, clothes or physical features, never make stereotypical or generalizations about anyone.

        6. Keep Emotions in Check

        Work-related stress is something we all have to deal with at some point or another. Whether you work in the public or private sector you will encounter stressors or stressful co-workers. In this case, it is good to keep open the lines of communications.

        Always ask to clarify how a person feels and where they are coming from. It is better to entertain these conversations before they make a person lash out or have a negative reaction. Ask to speak privately and get feedback. When you do this it really shows you care about what your role is and that you are a true professional.

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        7. Give Help to Others

        Having compassion and empathy for others is a noble attitude to practice.

        Though, do be careful about how much you want to get involved with colleagues at the office; it could jeopardize the nature of your work relationship and the roles you both have.

        It’s best to separate the personal from the professional and lend a hand by using your best judgement.

        8. Broaden Your Horizons

        Once you have worked in a company or an organization, things can get repetitive and dull. Sometimes we need to remember that we are human and need to fulfill certain responsibilities.

        Often we want to try to change things by introducing our best abilities or perhaps our inventions, but we need to be realistic. Change does not happen overnight, rather it is a long process.

        Step back and take a look at the big picture, and, put all your cards on the table to get perspective. Sometimes we approach situations in life from the wrong point-of-view.

        9. Be Optimistic

        This is probably one you have heard time and time again.

        When we suggest to have a positive attitude it does not mean to fake it until you make it, nor to conceal your feelings. This is not the case in this situation. Overall, you want to try to be authentic in how you are feeling, because life will throw curve balls that are beyond our control.

        10. Be Sensitive to Cultural Norms

        Whenever you are around other people within a professional workspace, do not make assumptions in trying to figure people out in an instant.

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        Some cultures discourage physical contact, while others may be inviting. Always be courteous, respectful and ask questions. It will not only make you more aware of others’ needs, but show that you are considerate of the differences.

        You do not want to get off on the wrong foot by being too friendly or too touchy. Just observe how people respond to your approach and let them lead the way of what is a safe practice to meet and greet the first time around.

        11. Show Professionalism

        How you interact and carry yourself around others will be the difference between a job promotion or losing your job. No matter what, always respectful and professional towards others.

        You will have an opportunities in life and at work, so showcase an outpouring of great and positive energy in the face of adversity.

        12. Get Involved with Activities

        When you are part of a company, there are often opportunities for organized activities outside of the office space.

        Sometimes it is worth exploring uncharted terrain and to get to know people in a different environment. Plus, you will have an opportunity to be seeing in a different light.

        Even though you are off the clock, keep your professional tenure and set boundaries. You want to be vulnerable, but not put yourself in a comprising position. Use your intuition and common sense to evaluate these situations.

        13. Get to Know Your Company

        With your smartphone or your laptop, you have at your fingertips a mine of information online. Just as you would do before a job interview, conduct ample research to get familiarized with what your company does and how its branding is perceived via the media or social networks.

        Rather than just focusing on doing your job and fulfilling the duties, see what the business is up to. It is fundamental to really know what organization you belong to. Get educated on what other ventures they are involved with as well as the ones that you are directly in the know about.

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        14. Learn to Problem Solve

        Problem solving is going to be a skill you will acquire with experience and by making mistakes. Furthermore, not only will you make mistakes but you will likely also sometimes fail. This is okay and is part of the natural swing of things!

        Learn to take responsibility for your actions and decisions. At the same time, do not blame others for coming up short. When you come forward with the truth and responsibility, your supervisors or superiors will take notice of your authenticity.

        One of the greatest gifts in life is fail and once you experience you start to get a different perspective on how to move forward at the job.

        15. Do Some Prospecting

        If you have coding, computer, language or other beneficial skills, be sure to pitch these at the right time.

        When you start out new at a company it is best not to show all your cards. It is like poker: don’t let others see if you believe you have the upper hand. Take time to get familiarized with your company and organization before promoting your outside skillset.

        You will know when to put forward your amazing talents, so proceed with caution.

        Conclusion

        Learning to refine your interpersonal skills is a lifelong process. In time, you will also became more effective and skillful after accumulating work-related experiences.

        Exert humility, understanding, compassion, and mindfulness and the rewards will come!

        Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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