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How to manage office politics

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There are some people who, from an early age, understand and engage in people politics, whether thats at school or with friends and family, and they will adapt well to the office version, I suspect. So, my advice is aimed at those who didnt get politics 101.

My coaching clients often say to me, in total innocence, I really didnt think there would be any politics here . There are always politics. So the first question you have to ask is Do I want to play , which is fine, or Do I want to manage , which I believe is a better route.

If you want to play, knock yourself out. And I would suggest you read some opinion polls about the popularity and perceived effectiveness of politicians before you do. If you want to manage read on.

There are two main tactics that can help you to manage office politics:

1. Understand whats really going on

Pay attention. What do you see Who talks to who Who doesnt talk to who What does the gossip say Notice who gets their way and who doesnt. Then decide how to talk to all in a way that makes sure you dont take sides.

Allow the others to talk and hear them without adding comments that suggest you disagree. Do a good job for everyone and listen and respond to what they need. When you are chatting with someone and they are playing the he is this she is that game, listen to them and talk to them about what they can do, how they feel, or what they want to do about it rather than saying I agree, thats awful or such like.

2. Dont get personal

You will not like everyone and not everyone will like you. Get over it and avoid scoring points. Where there are people you dont click with, dont spend time with them (or on them) if you can avoid it.

If you have to work with them, be professional and make sure you communicate clearly and consistently with them. Be direct and dont be woolly. Do a good job, focus on your own goals, learning and career and let the others get on with what they want to do.
Ultimately, you have to decide what kind of work-life you want. Yes there are some people who play politics and seem to get on – thats their choice. Your choice is what do you want to do and where do you want to put your energy

John McLachlan is managing director at Monkey Puzzle Training & Consultancy.

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