The Office Politics Series: Understanding The Psychology Of The Human Workplace

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Office politics. Those two simple words are enough to strike fear into the heart of the average working professional, resulting in everything from a subtle tensing of the shoulders to an eye roll, or even an outspoken declaration that they will never engage in political wrangling at work.

But here’s the thing: When we’re talking about office politics, all we’re really talking about are the unspoken rules of influence that exist in every organization. That’s it. Saying that you’re not going to “play politics” is roughly the same as saying that you don’t need to have influence to do your job.

Of course, that’s not true. If you work in your average professional environment, you can’t get things done without influence. For example, you might use influence to get buy-in for your ideas or projects, gain approvals for increased budget or additional staff, to rally your team towards an end goal. And influence is binary – you either have it or you don’t. Those who do have a choice to make: Do they use influence for good, to lift their co-workers up and become a change agent in their organization? Or do they use it for the sole benefit of gaining more personal power? Those who do the latter are what give office politics a bad name.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We have to stop looking at office politics as something that is fundamentally evil. Once you have a better understanding of how that influence is attained, you have every ability to use that power in a way that is ethical, above board, and to create much better relationships with the people you’re working with. People use office politics…

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