“Office politics” has become a dirty phrase in the workplace, synonymous with backstabbing, gossiping and internal battles. I’ve seen different variations of it over the last 20 years, mostly in manufacturing. I soon discovered that office politics doesn’t necessarily have to take place in an office setting. It occurs in non-office areas, such as in production and assembly areas, in lunch rooms, in outdoor workplace settings, and just about any place where employment exists.
We all want to be noticed by our supervisors and anyone else that has authority over us, hoping to be rewarded with promotions, pay raises, and peer recognition. Unfortunately, some people feel that they must resort to dirty games to get this attention. This includes spreading bad gossip, stealing a co-worker’s ideas and claiming it to be their own, “kissing-up” to a supervisor, etc. I’m sure that many of us have witnessed this before or have even been involved in such behaviour in some way.
In my experiences, I have found that this behaviour begins at a rather young age, while we’re in school. I can recall some fellow students resorting to what might be more aptly called “classroom politics” in order to reap the benefits from a teacher. This naturally moves along to the workplace. It’s amazing to see what great lengths some people will go to get that coveted promotion or pay raise, regardless of who may get hurt in the process. I’ve also seen this sort of behaviour backfire, up to and including being terminated from the job altogether.
I’ve found that the best way to win in office politics is to simply remain neutral and quiet. This means not participating in gossip and being a great listener. You gain valuable trust and confidence with your supervisor if they feel that they can come to you with stories and problems, knowing that you will not repeat it to anyone else. Supervisors and managers tend to remember this and will eventually reward you for your trusting behaviour. You become an avenue for them to vent their frustrations and ultimately make them feel better for doing so. I’ve been in situations where both supervisors and fellow workers have come to me with both sides of issues. All I do is simply listen to them and never pass judgment or advice. The resulting promotions and pay raises that I’ve received speak for themselves. Of course, I also like to believe that my rewards are also a result of great job performance as well!
– Todd Midgley
Electrical Engineering Technician ’91