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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 December 2, 2019

        13 Essential People Skills to Succeed in Your Career

        13 Essential People Skills to Succeed in Your Career

        Possessing strong people skills is an incredible asset in your career. They are actually a great resource in all areas of your life. There are many people skills that can help you succeed in your career.

        People skills are the various tools we all use to interact and communicate effectively with other people in our lives. You may have heard the term “soft skills“. People skills fall into this category. These are things you can’t measure like how well you score on an excel test. People with strong people skills are able to socialize well and relate to others. They are also known as social skills, interpersonal skills, and emotional intelligence to some degree.

        In this article, we will take a look at 13 of the most essential people skills that will help you boost your career. Take a look at your current arsenal of people skills and see what you can do to up your game. The level of success you achieve in your career depends on it.

        1. Strong Communication Skills

        This one is near and dear to my heart. I am a huge fan and proponent of how strong communication skills can help you at work and in all relationships. Being able to communicate clearly in both a written and spoken manner helps people understand you much better.

        When you are able to articulate your points, it’s going to help you in all facets of your career. Make sure you are a strong communicator in both a verbal and a written format. If you think about how many interactions you have with people at work, it’s easy to see how strong communication skills will help your career.

        2. Showing Empathy

        The ability to show empathy is a very good people skill to have as well. When you show empathy, you have the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You can see another person’s point of view and that is a great people skill to have. It helps you see other points of view and not get locked into your own way of thinking all the time.

        It’s easy to take a tunnel vision approach when trying to get your point of view across to someone. When other people see that you empathize with them, they feel understood. Feeling understood leads to a mutual feeling of trust. And creating trusting work partnerships is absolutely critical in succeeding in business.

        3. Being Adaptable and Flexible

        You know that saying that the only constant is change? I don’t know about you but, I’ve found this to be true in just about every phase of my life. And it is certainly true about work.

        Things change all the time. Another of the 13 essential people skills to succeed in your career is the ability to be adaptable and flexible.

        When I am wrapping up my day at work, the last thing I always do is make my to do list for the next day. Many times, I get a large chuck of my to do list done the next day. But sometimes, something urgent comes up at work and I can’t get anything done on my list. This is how we have to be adaptable and flexible in order to succeed.

        Things come up, things change. Have the ability to change with them. This makes you someone who can roll with the punches and continue to be productive despite changing priorities.

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        4. The Power of Influence

        In a job description, you might see something like “having the ability to influence key decision makers”. This is not a piece of fluff to help fill out the job description. It’s an essential people skill that will help you in your career.

        The ability to impact and influence people is a key competency frequently identified in top performers. The ability to impact and influence is often the number one competency in service, sales, managerial, and leadership roles. It’s really all about having the skill to persuade and convince others to support an idea, concept, or initiative.

        In my current role, I am the Director of Recruiting. Although I am less than 6 months into my position, I am being relied on for my expertise in a variety of areas. The reason being, and one of the main reasons I got the role, was the ability to influence people to a new way of thinking and doing things.

        I have knowledge in certain areas and the ability to communicate effectively with business leaders in such a way as to show them that a new way of doing things will yield better results than the previous way did. It’s the ability to influence.

        5. A Great Sense of Humor

        It’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t like to laugh. You know that nice feeling of a lightened load after a good laugh? The general sense of feeling more at ease and relaxed?

        Having a great sense of humor and the ability to make others laugh will gain you friends and colleagues alike at work. Someone who can make others laugh has the ability to diffuse tension and put others at ease. They are able to direct an emotionally charged conversation at work towards a more open communicating style between all parties.

        People with a good sense of humor can put others at ease and tend to get more airtime at meetings and have their points of view heard more often.

        6. Assertiveness

        Some people equate assertiveness with aggressiveness.

        Being assertive in the workplace is about standing up for yourself. For speaking out and sharing your opinions in meetings. It’s about telling your manager that you are fine with putting in extra work when it’s needed but you feel working 60 hour weeks every week for months on end is not what you signed up for.

        If you see a project getting ready to fire up and you feel like you could add value, tell your manager or whoever is leading the project.

        When you see something isn’t going right and you could help out, then by all means, speak up. It’s about ensuring that you get the opportunities that others get. Being assertive about your career is a good way to earn respect as well.

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        Take a look at this guide on How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way.

        7. Active Listening

        Many people forget that half of communication is listening. If you don’t practice active listening in the workplace, you are only hearing half the conversation, your own.

        Active listening is the ability to be fully present when someone is talking to you. To show them with your body language that you are hearing what they are saying and are absorbing the information.

        Tuning out distractions and placing your full attention on the speaker is the best way to practice active listening. When you are an active listener, you absorb information better and perhaps more importantly, show the other person that you really care about what they are saying and their point of view.

        I’ve mentioned this before but, it bears repeating. When people feel understood, it creates a strong emotional bond. Everyone wants to feel understood. Through active listening, you are showing others that you care about understanding them.

        8. Being Supportive and Motivational

        Another critical people skill to help you succeed in your career is being supportive and motivational. This doesn’t just apply to being a boss, it’s easy to be supportive to others on your team or in your entire workplace.

        I work with a group of 4 other talent acquisition professionals. We are all very supportive of each other. We have frequent quick meetings to check on each other’s workload.

        If someone is carrying a far heavier load than the others, we offer to help out in any way we can. When someone has strong success, we celebrate it and motivate each other to succeed.

        By being supportive and motivational, you help create a strong sense of team in the workplace and this is huge in your career.

        9. Problem Solving Skills

        This is also known as creative thinking or resourcefulness. Problem solving skills can be a huge benefit in your career. Think of the person that has to ask for help solving every little problem that comes across their desk. Compare this to the person that other people see as the go to person when they can’t figure things out. Who would you rather be?

        Sometimes, the answers aren’t there and we go to others for help and that’s fine. When you do that, learn from it; so you don’t have to keep asking the same question over and over.

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        Problem solving skills is also great because when unique obstacles or challenges come up, you are able to look at things in a different ways.

        Sometimes, new challenges need new solutions. Be the person that can find new solutions with your awesome problem solving skills. Solving challenges takes pressure off your boss and colleagues which makes it a great people skill to have.

        10. Leadership

        Having leadership skills doesn’t necessarily mean leading a team or being a manager. Having strong leaderships skills also means you are able to lead others with your knowledge.

        If you are a manager, lead by example. You want people to care about their work then you’d better as well.  You want people to be at work by a certain time then you should be as well. Show your team that you care about and support their success. This is a good hallmark of having strong leadership skills.

        If you aren’t a manager of people, you can still have leadership skills with your knowledge. You can be the go to person in your area of expertise. People can see you as a leader in your expertise at work and you can be seen as a leader in your specialization outside of work as well. It’s having the ability to share your knowledge with others and the desire to help them succeed and advance their career.

        Learn these 10 Management Skills to Become a Strong Leader.

        11. Emotional Intelligence

        Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others. In other words, it’s being able to know how you are feeling and managing them in the context of when and where there are happening. It’s also being able to do the same with others around you.

        Here’s an example that has happened to me on more than one occasion. An email comes in and I read it. As I read more and more, I get more and more angry until I feel like steam is coming out of my ears. When I am smarter and manage my angry emotions, I will walk away from the email and not respond until I calm down. I have done this. I’ve also immediately responded with a fiery email back. And that goes about as well as you’d imagine.

        I’m sure you can also think of a situation where a fellow colleague was upset about something and you knew it. How you handle interacting with that colleague that is upset goes a long way toward showing how emotionally intelligent you are. You can see why this is an essential people skill to succeed in your career.

        12. Being a Team Player

        Being a team player will be incredibly helpful as a way to help propel your career. Team players are sought out by others. People in positions of leadership always want team players as part of their group. Why? Because they tend to be more productive and are great at helping the whole team succeed.

        There’s nothing wrong with being an individual contributor but, you should also be able to get along with other people you interact with. It’s being the person that others know they can get in touch in a pinch. Or someone that will help out when the chips are down.

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        When others view you as a team player, they see you as reliable and someone they want to work with. That’s high on the list of 13 essential people skills to succeed in your career.

        13. Negotiation Skills

        Possessing good negotiation skills is very good for your career. A lot of people tend to think of negotiation skills in the context of hard core, wheeling and dealing with the money hungry businessmen. That’s the image but not the reality.

        Examples of negotiation skills in your business life and career happen all the time if you make use of them. Let’s say you get a job offer and you ask for more money. They say no. A good negotiator will ask for an additional week of paid time off or the ability to work from home once a week. Anyone who interacts with vendors on a regular basis like I do knows it’s important to get the best value whenever possible. This makes you look better to your employer.

        I recently landed a really great recruit. My negotiation skills closed the gap between what the employer wanted to pay and the compensation the candidate wanted. In the end, we all came to a great agreement that worked for everyone.

        Strong negotiation skills are a good people skill to possess. You can take a look at these 12 Tactics to Negotiate Better and Not Be a Pushover.

        The Bottom Line

        It’s easy to see why these people skills will help you succeed in your career. It’s not common for someone to excel in all 13 essential people skills but it is possible and does happen.

        When you see someone who is doing well in their career and is being noticed in the corporate setting, chances are they possess many of these people skills.

        I invite you to take a look at how developed your people skills are. If you see some areas where they could be better, take the time to work on improving them. Your career will thank you.

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        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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