Ever feel like you love your job, but hate all the other stuff that goes along with it?
The parts of work that aren’t your actual work – endless meetings, dealing with a toxic boss, trying to focus in a noisy office – can be seriously draining, and perhaps none more than having to navigate office politics.
From managing people’s egos to tiptoeing around drama with expert precision, the stress of office relationships can be immense, often to the detriment of our productivity and mental wellbeing.
After all, it’s not just day-to-day tasks that can mount up and contribute to burnout. It’s the insidiousness of dealing with office politics, too.
So, how can we deal with it?
We spoke with workplace expert Salman Raza for his expert tips.
Get to know your co-workers’ motivations
Up your awareness of people’s behind-the-scenes behaviour by looking deeper into where they’re coming from, and why they act the way they do.
‘We often exhibit and witness workplace politics without even realising it,’ says Salman. ‘Personality types and behaviours are very important here.
‘Being aware of different behaviour types and their political motivations can help you deal with individuals in a sympathetic and effective way and use their skills and experience for the overall good of the team.’
To identify people’s motivations, Salman points to a model developed by Simon Baddeley and Kim James, which is broken down in this image (click to expand):
Once you can identify certain behaviours, you can learn how to deal with each one.
‘For example, if we notice a fox behaviour (secretive behind the scenes, using others to do their bidding), my strategy would be to intensify or encourage transparency,’ notes Salman. ‘Or, if we notice donkey behaviour, my strategy would be to ignore their tantrums and focus on the job at hand.’
Check in with your own emotions
Don’t speed past your feelings or dismiss them out of hand – take a pause to check in with yourself.
‘Take inventory of your feelings,’ Salman recommends. ‘When you’re faced with a situation at work that causes your emotional stress levels to rise, pause for a moment and do an inventory of your feelings.
‘For example, if a colleague blatantly ignores you when you ask for help, ask yourself “why do I feel angry and upset?”
‘By processing these feelings, you’ll give yourself a time buffer to contemplate your next step instead of reacting impulsively.’
Do your bit
You might not be able to control how people in your workplace behave, but what you do have power over is your own actions.
Don’t stoop to others’ levels or try to beat people at their own game.
If a lack of transparency from your managers frustrates you, make sure you’re maintaining clear, open, honest communication. If you feel like someone’s always going behind your back, bring up anything they need to know about directly with them.
Lead by example and keep yourself clean of any nastiness, if only to avoid getting into that oh-so-damaging cycle of ‘well they did this, so I’ll do it right back’.
Remove yourself from triggering situations in the moment
‘Whether it is a heated argument with a colleague or a blatant show of disrespect from a customer, try to immediately remove yourself from the situation gracefully,’ says Salman. ‘Grab a drink of water, ask for a few minutes to collect your thoughts.
‘If you can’t leave your physical workspace, try standing instead of sitting, or face in a different direction for a few moments.’
Channel your empathy
Trying to understand annoying co-workers as human beings can go a long way in reducing irritation.
Salman suggests: ‘Be attuned to the things that wake up your human side. Empathy can pacify negative emotions instantly.
‘Try to remind yourself that the trigger is someone’s partner, son, daughter, friend etc.’
Remember that most people are just trying to do their best at work and have entire lives outside of the office environment. Think about what’s causing them to behave in certain ways – is there a rubbish working culture? Are they under a lot of pressure? Does workplace instability make them feel competitive?
Don’t vent too much to other co-workers
We know, we know – bitching about that one person you and your best work pal deeply resent seems fun.
But deep down, you know it’s only going to breed further discontent and division.
Ranting to people you work with doesn’t just unfairly influence their perspective of other people, it also doesn’t paint you in the best light.
Try to reduce your moaning a tad, limit it to people who you don’t work with, or try Salman’s suggestion of getting out your emotions on paper.
‘Write down your frustrations and shred them,’ Salman says. ‘Sometimes it helps to get your frustrations and negative emotions out on paper.
‘Write exactly what you want to say and then shred them. The simple act of writing down your feelings can help you remain calm. Alternatively, shout them out loud when you are in alone – in the shower, for example.’
Document your work
A classic office politics technique? Stealing credit.
Don’t let those sneaky types get away with it. Document your work and successes – and don’t be shy of shouting about them. Let your boss know what you’ve been doing and have accomplished, so no one can question your productivity or cast doubt on your brilliance.
Salman Raza is a management expert and the author of Life’s Non-Conformities: An Auditor’s Tale of Practical Application of Social, Emotional & Behavioral Strategies.
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