When one hears the phrase ‘office politics’, what often comes to mind would be favouritism, back-stabbing and cronyism. Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of such treatment would likely swear that office politics are bad.

However, the truth of the matter is that office politics are neutral. They are simply strategies employees adopt at the workplace to gain an advantage for themselves or for an organisational cause. When carried out right, office politics can actually contribute to the common good.

Let us take a look at how.

Positive Office Politics Can Be Used to Create a Better Functioning Team and Serve a Greater Cause

Managers can ‘create’ positive office politics by fostering a culture of open communication, where employees are comfortable to ask for help whenever in doubt and offer their insights to improve the quality of work. A workplace that seeks for and respects all input makes employees feel valued. This also encourages them to buy into the greater vision of the organisation and work together to achieve common goals.

Managers should make it a point to publicly praise employees with excellent work performance. Giving credit where credit is due can boost morale and motivate employees, making them happy to come to work each day.

When a team needs to take part in a necessary but unpopular project, managers with good political skills do not need to force change through management decree. Instead, they leverage existing relationships and goodwill to gather support for the cause of the project. It becomes possible to persuade employees to accept and participate in the project, leading to a more successful outcome.

How To Develop One’s Positive Political Savviness

Organisations can train their employees to get what they want the right way and avoid a toxic work environment caused by negative office politics. According to a 2005 study, Political Skill at Work: How to influence, motivate, and win support, by University of Florida, these are four key competencies of the positively political savvy:

  • Social astuteness – This is the ability to read the people and conditions around you, and adapt your behaviour to anticipated situations. Politically savvy people tend to be perceptive observers and pay attention not only to what people say, but also to their non-verbal cues.
  • Interpersonal influence – Effective influencers build stronger interpersonal relationships and maintain good rapport with others, making it easier for them to receive support for a cause. Influencers have good judgement and know when to assert themselves, and this encourages cooperation and results among employees.
  • Networking ability – Networking is not just about handing out business cards. Good networkers form friendships that can be relevant to their work. They know when to ask for help and support and are willing to reciprocate, which then contributes to a positive office environment.
  • Sincerity – Politically savvy people have high level of integrity and are sincere in their dealings, which can then help maintain smoother interaction among employees.

Be the Change You Want to See

Through these four key competencies, an organisation can build positive relationships and open communication; however, the change should start from each employee. A popular quote goes: “Be the change you wish to see in this world.” You may have been troubled by bad office politics, but it is wiser to take the high road. You can rise above the petty politics, and take action from within to improve your own ways and work environment.

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