We’ve all been there. There’s that one boss or co-worker who makes your life a living nightmare. It could be that your boss is a compulsive liar or has favorites on the team. It could also be that you have problems with the corporate culture and its rigid rules that must be followed exactly for your work to be “acceptable.” Office politics are difficult for everyone, and some people handle it much better than others. So what’s the difference? Why do some people know how to jump through the hoops and cut the red tape better than others?
Here are 11 things they know how to do, that you should too.
1. Kiss up to difficult people and tell them that they are great
Everyone likes to have nice things said about them, especially difficult people. They like their egos stroked, so just do it! Sure, it’s fake. You’re probably thinking that you shouldn’t have to stoop to that level just to get along with problem people. However, if this problem person is your boss, you have no choice. I have been in situations where some people don’t have a filter for their dislike of their boss (or co-workers). It does not turn out pretty. So, learn to fake it. It may not sound like a great thing to do, but it’s the only thing you can do to win in office politics, especially if the person is your superior.
2. Make your body language match your fakery
Actions speak louder than words. There is actual research to back this up. If a verbal message (“I think your awesome!”) is accompanied by negative body language (eye-rolling or scrowls on your face), the person will always believe your nonverbals. It’s hard to control your body language because it’s tied to your emotions. You must make an effort to be aware of what you are saying with your body. Smile! Nod! Tilt your head! Laugh! “Fake it ‘til you make it!”
3. Take notes from others
Okay, so maybe you’re not good at faking it. Many of us aren’t, so maybe you don’t even know where to start. What should you say? How should you act? If you really have no idea, just look around. Study how your colleagues handle the difficult person. Pay attention to the colleagues who generally seem to be accepted. Study them, then mimic what they do.
4. Remember your “enemy” is just a human being
These difficult people in your office are the bullies from the playground who grew up and are still making life problematic for others. As the saying goes: Hurt people hurt people. Have empathy for them. They are probably miserable, or don’t like themselves. You don’t know the kind of childhood they experienced. It must have been bad if they don’t know how to treat people kindly, or with respect. Although they may try to have a holier-than-thou attitude, they might have low self-esteem. Treat them as you would like to be treated.
5. Thank them and listen to them
No one likes to receive criticism. Your friends in the workplace may not point out how you can improve, but you can certainly count on the difficult boss to do that! Criticism is not always a bad thing. It can force us to become a better person.
6. Stay away from power struggles
Most of the time, power struggles are at the root of office politics. Some people have big egos and, if two of them collide, it can be explosive. Usually, the fight isn’t about the topic at hand. They are just fighting to “win.” Many people approach conflict with a “win-lose” attitude. This attitude fuels the political fire and destroys the organizational culture. Don’t get involved so you don’t get in the line of that fire.
7. Be careful who you trust
Trusting others isn’t always a good thing. Trust me, I know. Sit back and assess people and their personalities. Listen to their words, and more importantly, observe their behavior. You must live on the side of caution when it comes to sharing information, especially if it’s negative. View everyone you talk to as a potential spy who might bring information back to the enemy. It may sound cynical, but it’s self-preservation. Hopefully, you have true friends you can trust in the workplace, but don’t go around sharing your thoughts and feelings too freely.
8. Be nice to everyone
You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. When people are nasty to you, it puts you in a defensive mode. You may want to strike back and destroy the other person like they destroyed you. Obviously, this does not contribute to a supportive office environment! Be nice, instead. Be nice especially the ones who aren’t nice to you. Eventually, you will notice that they will become more tolerable because you are not giving them any reasons to attack you.
9. Don’t dismiss or criticize–Ask questions instead
I’ve seen it happen so many times, especially in meetings. When someone disagrees with another person, they have a tendency to criticize the person, not the idea. Separate the person from their ideas. They’re not bad because you don’t like what they are saying. Instead, ask them questions about their ideas. Well thought-out ideas will be easily supported. If the person cannot come up with good evidence as to why their solution is better, maybe they will see the light through your questioning process.
10. Build consensus
As I mentioned in #6, many people view conflict as a battle of wills. This attitude only breaks down the whole office atmosphere, and it breeds contempt. Instead of a “me vs. you” attitude, have a “we” attitude. Together, you all need to solve a problem or finish a project. Act like a team. View yourselves as a unit instead of individuals who are fighting to win. Find areas of agreement and build upon that.
11. Don’t bring a bad attitude home with you
When people are stressed out at work because of office politics, it is easy to let it spill over into your personal life. You might be nasty to your spouse, your kids, or your friends. Remember, these people are not the cause of your stress–the office is. Leave work problems at work. Don’t worry, they’ll be waiting for you when you return.
Remember, don’t give the office politics the power to ruin the rest of your life. Block it out when you’re at home and be happy with what you have.