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Office Politics And How To Deal With Them

One of the toughest things to deal with in the workplace involves coexisting with one's coworkers. Office politics is present whether there are two, twenty or two hundred on the team. If siblings, who are genetically similar, still disagree; if best friends, who have chosen each other to confide in, trust in and lean on each other could still need to smooth out personal differences; surely, workmates would need to deal with even greater challenges.

Workmates are people who did not choose to work together but were essentially forced into a professional, social and relational common ground by the company that hired them. When workers are chosen via the recruitment process, only the hiring team, the human resources personnel or the company's heads have a say on who gets hired. A good number of companies may take into consideration an individual's fit into their corporate culture, but more companies hire people based on their ability to get things done and not whether they'll fit into the rest of the team. Thus, the workplace is not a venue to expect nurturing and friendship. It is a place to make a living and to be able to contribute to the progress of the company.

Doctors Henry Cloud and John Townsend, observed rather astutely that:

"[The workplace] is not only NOT set up to heal, [it can] also wound unintentionally."

People essentially come into the workplace with one main goal: getting paid for getting a job done. With that in mind, it may be easier to assume that one's coworkers will care about your feelings only as an afterthought. Their main goal would be to meet their own deadlines. Being focused on productivity, coworkers should expect that they will get offended along the way. Your feelings are not your colleagues' responsibility. Individual differences abound, and if a couple of these collide and cause a spark, office conflicts arise.

Office politics arises from individual differences. Office politics may come in the form of passive-aggressive displays of dislike and displeasure like giving others the cold shoulder, being uncooperative, or being rude in one's conversations. It could come in worse forms, like blocking people from rising up the corporate ladder, or even using intrigue to run other people out of the company. From the petty to the devastating, office politics never did anybody good.

One good way to deal with office politics is to set your expectations straight. Expect that your colleagues may unwittingly hurt your feelings because they are too busy to mind other people's feelings. Expect that you won't be treated with kid gloves. This way, you won't be surprised when people bark at you or fail to be nice to you.

Yes, it is fair to hope that everyone would act in a professional manner. After all, corporate interpersonal relations are, as a rule, supposed to be cordial and professional. But, reality speaks otherwise. More people are bullied at work, or desire to quit their jobs because of workmates that make their lives a living hell.

So as a person who is coming into a new job, or is trying to figure out how to balance a job she loves with the type of people she works with, understand one thing: you cannot change other people. You can only change yourself.

In dealing with workplace conflicts, interpersonal differences, or full-blown office politics, you have either of two choices:

  • If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Meaning, quit your job and look for other career options.
  • Be a rock. Let the storm rage all around you. As for you, remain unperturbed and keep being great at what you do.

If you choose to quit your job, be warned that there is no perfect job, no perfect workplace. You may have escaped your nemeses in Company A, but Company B will have new people to adjust to and work with. So before you start Day 1 in Company B, understand one thing: there may be people you won't like or who won't like you there, either. The only one whose emotions and reactions you can control are yours. The best thing you can do is to remain unperturbed even when other people treat you wrong. Better yet, be a sunshiny, positive presence in the workplace, even if some people make life hard for you. Countering negativity with an overwhelming positivity works wonders and could even change the emotional climate.

If outright, legally prosecutable abuse actually happens, you have the right to bring your case before the Human Resources department, or even make legal actions versus the person who is making your life a living hell. Aside from that, the best you can do is to buttress your inner self, remain unoffended, be a positive influence and go out there and get that job done, with flying colors!

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