Leadership

 Office Politics Are Alive and Well – Here’s What You Need to Know

The U.S. election may have passed, but politics rage on – in the office.

In a Robert Half survey, eight in 10 workers reported politics are on display in their office. Professionals cannot simply ignore them, however. Seventy-six percent of respondents said being involved in workplace politics is needed for career advancement, and 55 percent are at least occasional players.

Financial leaders must be on the lookout for an overly politicized environment, both for themselves and their teams. Failing to limit the rise of office politics can lead to more frequent staff conflicts, declining productivity, lower morale and higher turnover.

3 tips for dealing with office politics

Some aspects of office politics can be positive. For instance, if you’ve done your research and feel strongly about the merits of moving to a cloud-based financial solution, your lobbying efforts would benefit the company. But whether you choose to play the game or sit on the sidelines, every accounting and finance professional needs to know the basics.

Here are three tips:

  1. Radiate positivity. Be that person in the office who doesn’t badmouth others. Rather than going along with the griping and adding fuel to the flame, say something nice or bow out of the conversation. Make fairness part of your personal brand.
  1. Be ready to walk away. If gossip becomes a problem, excuse yourself. Simply let others know you need to attend to a project deadline.
  1. Stand up for yourself and your staff. Defend your ideas and speak up if others try to take credit for your work. Also stick up for your team in similar and other difficult situations. If needed, reach out to your human resources counterpart for advice on handling politics-related issues.

Featured office politicians

There are many ways to engage in office politics. Below is a list of common players:

  • Gossipmongers: It’s common to talk about others. Why? We gain social bonds from telling interesting stories about our friends and other contacts. The gossip hound, however, takes it one step further by spreading speculation, unfounded theories and even blatant misinformation.
  • Flatterers: There might be a few employees who frequently praise your decisions and actions, typically for their own benefit. As a manager, you have may have been a firsthand recipient of it. Be able to tell the difference between compliments and insincere adulation.
  • Credit hogs and credit thieves: The hogs demand recognition for their own work, no matter how small or insignificant. At the same time, they downplay others’ contributions. Thieves take credit for other people’s hard work.
  • Finger-pointers: The flip side of the credit thieves are the finger-pointers. Whenever there’s a mistake or something goes wrong, don’t look at them – they’re never at fault. Instead, they place the blame on others.
  • Lobbyists: In government, these professionals’ job is to sway elected officials’ opinions and consolidate support for their cause. At work, these employees have a way with words and know how to persuade others to go along with their plan.

Office politics is bound to happen in the modern workplace. Understanding what to watch for and how to manage them can help financial leaders ensure politics don’t harm employees or the business.

 

Tim Hird is the executive director of Robert Half Management Resources.