A Closer Look at Office Politics

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BY TAHMID SADMAN

Most people subscribe to the idea that office politics is a negative phenomenon. This idea has gained wide circulation over the years as the presumption of an office being an extremely competitive place has pervasively permeated throughout the world.

But contrary to public perception, office politics is not only about nepotism, backbiting or favoritism. There really is much more to it.

Politics in the workplace is often seen as an impediment to career progression, productivity and motivation. In many circles, this is seen as a nagging problem which not only is a thorn in one’s career but also the source of many sleepless nights. This negative sentiment is fuelled further as businesses get larger, more complex and deploy more teams than ever to get the job done. Besides, changes in organizations are getting more prevalent as companies make more and more strategic shifts in the face of growing competitive pressures. In addition, the importance of cross cultural communication is also on the spotlight. Such phenomena make the case for addressing office politics even stronger.

Unsurprisingly, the two words—office politics—can bring about contrasting reactions from different individuals at different levels in the corporate ladder. For the experienced executives office politics may sound as customary as bread and butter; for individuals who are midway through their careers the two words are likely to evoke mixed feelings while for the novices or the career hopefuls the words are likely to ignite fear and ring warning bells.

The negative connotations associated with office politics make us cringe, at least mentally. We often tend to believe that we are not yet good at it. This negative perception tends to make us frail and may even increase susceptibility to the most basic of negative perceptions—criticism. When criticized, one may feel that the forces of office politics are working against him/her. It leads to a loss of morale. Similarly, when an individual’s views do not gain acceptance, that individual is likely to believe that office politics has played a role behind such a circumstance.

But the thing is, there will always be the prevalence of politics. Take politics away and we would be able to equate ourselves to machines and emotionless. It is natural that people will develop relationships in the workplace and will engage with people who possess similar personality traits. They will often be tempted by curiosity to engage in conversations with others or ask them for help or get to know them better and so on.

Yes there are shy people, or introverts who rarely interact, but then again working under the same roof or working as a team is likely to galvanize or at least glisten the introverts’ personality with some aura of extroversion. The need to increase social equity is present in most of us, at least that’s what Maslow says in his hierarchy of needs. This is exactly why the tendency to forge political relationships is also driven by an individual’s rational thought processes. Being popular with the boss, will definitely increase the chances of promotion, and likewise forming strategic relationships with “key” people will make one a good contender to replace someone “upstairs”. But in the end, it’s always about forming a positive perception in the workplace, and ultimately playing the right cards in politics.

 

 The writer is a sophomore at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka. He can be reached at tsadman3@gmail.com. 

 



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