“If you want to work in corporate, then you should learn to play chess.”- Honeya
When you think about workplace politics, what comes into your mind?
Hold that thought and walk with me.
Tuesday, 11th August 2020, and we as the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central had taken a moment to reflect on how to manage workplace politics. In line with the COVID-19 regulations, this was an online meeting and we had managed to invite a legendary speaker.
There was something quite alluring about this specific meeting. Somehow, the poster we shared online prior to the meeting, stirred a conversation. I’m yet to place a finger on whether it was the amazing design on the poster, maybe the guest speaker, or the title, perhaps.
At the end of this piece, we will both have our answer.
The online meeting had been scheduled to take place between 1900hrs and 2030hrs. Before the meeting started, we had 80 participants online and the numbers were rising fast. By the time our President called the meeting to order, the room was full! I mean – pure bliss! I couldn’t help but imagine how much fun it would have been, had the meeting taken place at our usual venue – the Laico Regency Hotel!
However, the warmth that Rotaractors brew during both physical and online meetings is quite nostalgic and this meeting was no exception.
Listening to different members share their experiences on work politics, it occurred to me that there was a common denominator – politics are inevitable. In my opinion, politics are part of the human experience. You can’t avoid them but you can find a way around them.
Yes, I talk in the affirmative since you can always use politics to your advantage! How, you ask?
The guest speaker, Rotarian Paul Kasimu described workplace politics as “socially influencing behaviors which are strategically designed to maximize self-interest or self-serving behavior.”
Please take note of the word “SELF”. Let’s continue…
The first thing that came to mind on the mention of “work politics” was scandals. You definitely can’t blame me – scandals are a common occurrence. They even made a local movie about it – “Scandals Kibao”
Let’s go back to my earlier question. What came into your mind when you thought about work politics?
You must have also thought of lies, rumors, spying, backstabbing, enemies, allies, or revenge. Some of these words would augur well in a conflict zone. Office politics can also feel like a war zone where you are constantly fighting for your dignity, integrity, and sometimes, values.
Well, the bad news is that workplace politics exist at every stage of the employee life cycle.
You might be surprised to know that statistics by Forbes 2019 show that 55% of employees partake somewhat in office politics mostly to advance their careers and 76% of employees believe gossiping and spreading rumors is the most popular form of office politicking. Of interest to note, 46% of politics hamper employees’ efforts to advance their careers.
This revelation informs us that maybe, you can’t afford to stay out of politics but you can afford to spin it work to your own advantage.
Work politics can be fueled by both individual and organizational factors. Some of the main organizational factors highlighted by Rotarian Paul Kasimu include the allocation of resources, role ambiguities, performance pressure, and non-objective performance reviews. Some of the individual factors included expectations of success, perceived job alternatives, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.
Yes, you too could also be playing a major role in advancing office politics at your workplace.
Just like in every political race you’ve watched, there is always a winner and a loser. In this case, there are both pros and cons of office politics. Some of the advantages highlighted by our guest speaker, a seasoned human resource practitioner, included career growth, enhancing collaborations and influence, development of personal brands, fostering of change in management, and resilience. I couldn’t possibly agree more. Think about your favorite politician and relate these factors to them. There are, however, disadvantages to politics which include decreased job satisfaction, disengaged employees, reputation risk, and decreased organizational citizenship.
The good news is that there are three sets that could help you thrive in the murky political world.
A great mindset tops them all. Choose to have an open mindset and tap into all the opportunities which arise around you. Having a great and learning mindset will lead you to the next set of skills; ensure you gain a new skillset from the opportunities you get. The last set you will learn as you thrive in the first two sets is the toolset which includes soft skills like managing and saving time, resolving conflict, motivating others and yourself, and most paramount, communicating clearly.
We all agree that politics is inevitable, don’t we?
Well, as the meeting drew to a close, we learned how we can be politically-savvy individuals. While observing others; you might just spot the office politician. Interact and network with your colleagues at work; you might avoid rubbing off with the office politician. You will know who they are even before they can pronounce your name. Communicate upwards; there are higher chances that someone will be willing to listen. Think before you speak; a good examination of your thoughts will keep you out of trouble (a lot of trouble for that matter). Be a real and authentic version of yourself. Finally, influence; tap into people’s rationale, connect your message with their individual values, and get them involved through collaborations and consultations.
Most importantly ignore the noise that comes with office politicking.
This has to be my best meeting so far. After much thought, my alluring factor about the meeting was the title. I have to say that, without the benefit of doubt, no one would have delivered on this topic better than Rotarian Paul Kasimu. He did an exemplary job and for that, we as the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central applaud him for his service.
If you would like to be part of our exciting Rotaract experience (#RCNCExperience), join us at our next meeting on the 25th August 2020, as we explore pertinent issues affecting you.
Article by: RCNC Secretariat 2020-2021