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The Political Playground: working relationships

Welcome to the corporate jungle! It's not just about what you know, but who you know and how you manage those relationships. Think of it as a game of chess, but instead of pawns and knights, you have colleagues and managers.

The Art of Navigating Office Politics

1. Keep the Peace

Being pleasant and professional while avoiding conflict is crucial in maintaining a positive work environment. Assertiveness is about expressing your thoughts and needs confidently without being aggressive.

Practical Example: Imagine a colleague requests your assistance on a project, but you're swamped with your own work. Instead of bluntly refusing, explain your current workload and suggest a later time when you might be able to help, or recommend someone else who could assist. This approach shows that you're cooperative and considerate, even when you can't fulfill the request immediately.

Key Insight: Assertiveness lies in the balance between passivity and aggression. It involves clear, honest communication about your needs and boundaries, without stepping on others' toes.

2. Avoid Picking Sides

Staying neutral in conflicts is important to maintain impartiality and professionalism. Choosing sides can create an atmosphere of division and adversely affect your working relationships.

Practical Example: Suppose there's a disagreement between two departments in your organization. As a team leader, instead of supporting one side over the other, focus on understanding both perspectives and work towards a solution that benefits the overall goals of the organization. By doing this, you show that your priority is the company's well-being, not individual allegiances.

Key Insight: Neutrality helps in building trust with all parties. It positions you as a problem-solver rather than a participant in the conflict, enhancing your reputation as a fair and effective leader.

3. Document Agreements

Getting agreements in writing is a proactive step to avoid future misunderstandings and provides a clear reference point.

Practical Example: If you're in a meeting and a colleague agrees to complete a task by a certain deadline, follow up the meeting with a brief email summarizing the agreed points. This way, there is a documented record of what was agreed upon, which can be referred back to if there are any discrepancies in the future.

Key Insight: Documentation acts as a safeguard for all parties involved. It ensures that everyone has the same understanding of what has been agreed upon, thereby reducing the potential for conflict.

4. Lead by Example

As a leader, your behavior sets the tone for your team. Demonstrating integrity and discouraging negative office politics are essential in cultivating a positive and productive work environment.

Practical Example: If you overhear a colleague engaging in gossip, instead of joining in or ignoring it, gently steer the conversation towards more constructive topics. This action subtly discourages negative behavior and reinforces a culture of positivity.

Key Insight: Leading by example is about modeling the behavior you want to see in your team. When leaders act with integrity and professionalism, they inspire their teams to follow suit, creating a more harmonious and effective working environment.

5. Use the BOFF Feedback Model

This model focuses on addressing issues by discussing Behavior, Outcome, Feeling, and Future plans, rather than assigning blame.

Behavior: Start by discussing the specific behavior that caused an issue. Be factual and avoid personal attacks. For instance, if a colleague missed a deadline, describe the behavior: "The report which was due on Monday wasn't submitted."

Outcome: Describe the consequences of the behavior. In the example above, you might say, "Because the report was late, the team couldn't proceed with the project plan, leading to delays."

Feeling: Express how the behavior and its outcome affected you or the team. This could be, "I felt stressed because it put us behind schedule, and it also increased pressure on the team."

Future: End with a positive note, focusing on what can be done differently in the future. Suggest, "Next time, could you let us know in advance if you're behind schedule? This would help in reallocating resources or adjusting timelines."

6. Create a Positive Environment

Fostering a culture of collaboration over competition involves understanding and responding to the team's mood and needs.

Team Mood Assessment: Regularly check in with your team members. This could be through informal chats or scheduled meetings. Understanding their challenges and stressors is key to creating a supportive environment.

Collaborative Initiatives: Encourage projects that require team collaboration, which can foster a sense of unity and shared purpose. Highlight the importance of each member's contribution to the overall success of the project.

7. Speak Up and Stay Positive

Advocating for yourself and others, while maintaining a positive outlook, is crucial for a healthy workplace environment.

Self-Advocacy: When you have ideas or concerns, speak up in meetings. This shows confidence and ensures your contributions are recognized.

Positive Outlook: Maintain a positive demeanor, even in challenging situations. This doesn't mean ignoring problems, but rather approaching them with a solution-oriented mindset.

8. Understand the Dynamics

Observing and understanding the political landscape involves recognizing key players and alliances within the organization.

Observation and Analysis: Take note of who collaborates with whom, the influencers in the team, and how decisions are made. Understanding these dynamics helps in navigating workplace politics more effectively.

Strategic Networking: Engage with different groups and individuals. This helps in gaining a broader perspective and can be useful in understanding the workplace culture better.

9. Build Relationships

Cultivating positive relationships at all levels of the organization is about being approachable, articulate, and authentic.

Approachability: Be open and available for conversations, showing genuine interest in your colleagues' ideas and concerns.

Articulate Communication: Clearly express your thoughts and listen actively. This builds trust and ensures effective collaboration.

Authenticity: Be yourself. Authentic interactions build deeper and more meaningful connections.

10. Embrace Emotional Intelligence

Recognizing and managing your emotions, as well as those of others, is vital, especially under pressure.

Self-Awareness: Reflect on your emotions and reactions. Understanding your emotional triggers helps in managing them more effectively.

Empathy: Try to understand and respect the feelings of your colleagues. This helps in building strong, empathetic relationships.

11. Have Fun Together

Team-building exercises are great for fostering unity and camaraderie.

Team Outings: Organize informal gatherings or outings. This helps team members bond outside of the work environment.

Team Activities: Engage in fun, collaborative activities during team meetings or dedicated team-building sessions. This can range from problem-solving exercises to creative workshops.

Working relationships & political jungle

Mastering office politics is like walking a tightrope – it requires balance, awareness, and a bit of grace. Remember, it's not about manipulation; it's about understanding and navigating the complex web of human relationships. So, wear your diplomatic hat, keep your friends close (and your frenemies closer), and may the office odds be ever in your favor! As usual, if you wish to delve deeper into the matter, jump ahead to our 10-minutes Basics and start your journey towards becoming an expert on this topic…

Working relationships, professional politics jungle
Maximising relationships & professional politics jungle

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