How to Navigate Workplace Politics


Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Getting on with everyone at work can be a challenge but there are ways to ensure that things go smoothly and you stay out of workplace politics.

Article 3 Minutes
How to Navigate Workplace Politics

In an ideal world, everyone would get on in the workplace. The office would be somewhere that you can bounce ideas off your colleagues, feel valued for your contribution, and everyone would pull their weight.

Unfortunately this is rarely the case. The reality is that most personalities will clash at some point, especially if you work in a competitive or creative environment. This means that, rather than coming naturally, getting on with your colleagues can feel like a constant battle.

Even if you do your best to avoid being the instigator of conflict, those around you may not feel the same and this can be just as disruptive to your day. But it's also important for you to feel confident enough to voice your opinions on a project and that your colleagues feel able to do the same.

So how do you negotiate workplace politics?

Take your emotion out of the equation

It's easier said than done, but if you can remove your personal feelings about the topic of your debate and simply focus on the business elements, you'll find it much easier to negotiate. Too many people take criticism about their work or ideas personally, rather than understanding that their colleagues just want the best result for the company.

Likewise though, for this to work in the long run you need to make sure your critiques of other people's contributions are based on your professional observations, rather than your dislike of a certain approach.

It's not about winning

Workplaces, especially boardrooms, can often become incredibly competitive environments. You need to remember that the discussion isn't about who wins, it's about getting the right solution for the task in question.

This can be particularly difficult if you already have friction with one or many of your colleagues. Do your best to judge everything based on what you hear during the meeting, rather than who happens to be saying it.

Earmark a leader

Whether it's a brainstorm, client meeting or internal discussion, you need to ensure someone is allocated to be the leader. This should be someone who has a solid understanding of the wider project and has a proven ability to be impartial. Their prime concern should be to get the best outcome from the discussion and that this is the most effective result for the company.

Doing this should allow personal battles to be taken out of the equation and you can all focus on the same overall goal.

Is it worth the fight?

Before you allow any workplace discussion to escalate, you need to be sure it's worth the fight. Will it benefit the company? Will it really impact your career? Will the outcome risk a client? Unless it's something of this sort of severity, you should probably just take one for the team and resign yourself.

It's up to the person who has been designated leader of the meeting to make the overall decision, so say your point and let them draw their conclusion. Focus on articulating yourself well and concisely, even if your counterpart is getting heated, and let the control lay with the leader.

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