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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 March 13, 2019

        If You Think You’re in an Unhappy Marriage, Remember These 5 Things

        If You Think You’re in an Unhappy Marriage, Remember These 5 Things

        When you are in an unhappy marriage, you may tell yourself certain things, using them as an excuse to stay because you are scared. Such myths may include, “I have put too much time into this marriage for it to end,” or “I have sacrificed way too much and invested way too much time into this relationship. I’m not just going to walk away from it.” Viewing your marriage as a time investment, when that relationship is no longer a healthy or loving one, serves no purpose but to prolong your suffering. If you find yourself in this situation, there are five lessons you must embrace so that you can give yourself the chance to move on.

        1.  Quit viewing your years of marriage as some sort of investment. It’s not.

        The time you have put into your marriage is not a non-refundable down payment, so do not treat it like one. When people justify staying in an unhappy marriage, they usually justify it through the lens of time spent, not through the lens of actually being healthy and happy. In a healthy and happy marriage, time spent together is beneficial– you have good memories, the joys of building a family, and more comfortable living. But once the marriage unravels, you cannot invoke those years spent as a justification to stay in a relationship, especially when the relationship has broken down and both partners are no longer invested in it.

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        2.  Accept that you deserve better. Do not treat your life and happiness like a faceless commodity.

        Unless you are learning to play the piano, you are an athlete who must train 8 hours a day to keep in form, or you are hand-painting the Sistine Chapel, erase this false narrative that time put in = a guaranteed return. You deserve more than that. You deserve better than just seeing yourself, your relationship, and your life as as commodity subject to negotiation. When you view your marriage as merely an investment of time, and use that time as a justification for staying in something that is no longer healthy, you only hurt and demean yourself.

         3. Those married years taught you a lot, but they don’t owe you anything.

        This lesson is not meant to sound harsh. Most of us have some wonderful memories from our marriage, and it is important to acknowledge those good times. They gave us happiness and helped us grow. Yet be cautious of your selective memory. You must also recognize that the years in between those memories–the not-so-good-ones– are not collateral and an excuse to remain in a marriage that is no longer working. You may have been married 5, 10, or 20 years, and made sacrifices during that time. You may think that you are owed something because of those unhappy years. But to treat those sacrifices and unhappy years as a bargaining tool, thinking it entitles you to happiness, gets you nowhere.

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        You must think of those married years as experience; you were taught about relationships, families, and about who you are because of that time in the partnership. Be grateful for those lessons, but do not attempt to use them as a bargaining tool to remain in a marriage that is no longer sustainable. To do so denies you the opportunity to move on.

        4. You may be using the time myth to stay in an unhappy marriage because you’re scared. And that’s okay.

        The time you put into a relationship, even if you or your spouse is no longer happy, was at least time in which you were comfortable, and your life, for the most part, was predictable. The end of that relationship signifies an end to the vision of life you had planned for yourself—the illusion of normalcy that assured you that you were like everybody else. You may be afraid to start over, afraid to go “back to the beginning”—whatever that means—because you think you are too old, too financially unstable, or too emotionally distraught to do so.

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        Give yourself more credit than that—recognize that you are smarter, more organized, more adaptable, and a hell of a lot stronger than you can even imagine.

        It’s okay to feel scared about starting over. The fear is what makes you human, but it’s the courage to give yourself another shot at happiness that makes you truly remarkable. Overcome the wavering and excuses of  “I have put so much time into this marriage” and get past that fear and bargaining and you will get that second chance at life.

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         5. Time invested does not equal happiness. But you can find happiness on your own.

        As heartbreaking as it is, sometimes marriages run their course, regardless of the years of effort and sacrifice you invested. It’s okay to move on, okay to start over, and okay to find happiness on your own terms.

        But here is where time spent does become your responsibility. As you start or continue to make a new life for yourself, you are given a choice about time. You may choose to spend it angry, bitter, or heartbroken about the end of your marriage, or you may choose to invest time in yourself and your own happiness. You are not destined to live a life of hurt and misery because you are separating or divorcing. However, you can be destined for greatness and the opportunity to move on and become stronger, more compassionate, and a happier person. And putting your energy into that happiness is time well spent.

        Featured photo credit: Wife and Husband/Roland Tanglao via flickr.com

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