KATHMANDU: Politics has permeated almost every sector — with the workplace as no exception. In its simplest form, office politics is simply about the differences between people at work — in terms of opinions and conflict of interest.
However, politics in place of work can get brutal, especially when an employee is out for his or her personal gain alone. Office politics, or
how power and influence are managed in any company, will be a part of everyone’s career whether one chooses to participate or not.
“Ideally, we would want the workplace to be devoid of politics, however, in reality it is just not possible,” says Pranav Shrestha, director of Nepal Printing and Pack-aging Co Ltd. Stating that office politics is a recurring challenge that he deals with on a regular basis, he stresses on the need for clear comm-unication and the willingness to listen to both sides with an open mind while managing such situations.
A joint research by the UK-based Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the US-based Development Dimensions International reveals office politics is one of the main challenges facing organisations, with almost half of the top level leaders stating that they feel unable to address it and around a quarter saying it is the toughest challenge.
And yet, there is another school of thought that says playing the office politics game is really playing an artful influencing game with those whom you need. Many nuances, unwritten rules, and savvy strategies comprise the game well played. According to a survey of more than 400 US workers employed in an office environment by staffing firm Robert Half International, nearly 60 per cent of workers said involvement in office politics is at least somewhat necessary to get ahead.
Sabina Maharjan, support administrator at Thakral One Nepal Pvt Ltd (TONPL), however, believes that people should not resort to politics to
get to places. “Rather than playing dirty games, employees should focus on honing their potential and depend on their calibre to climb up the corporate ladder,” she maintains, further informing TONPL has a system in place where open communication is highly encouraged and keeps any kind of politics at work in check.
Studies have shown that the most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. In this regard, Maharjan highlights that it is not the situation at hand, but how it is handled that makes all the difference. “Reliability, commitment and faithfulness are three virtues of
succeeding in the office,” opines Maharjan, emphasising that employees should allow their work to speak for them rather than blowing their own trumpets.
Nonetheless, when conflicts do occur, it is very easy to get sucked into tunnel-vision and focus only on the immediate differences. “Difficult as it is, we at the management level need to come up with a win-win situation for all involved, not take sides and never ever take it personally,” says Shrestha. “We need to remind both parties how every member is an important part of the organisational tapestry. This is the ultimate challenge, but if tackled effectively, it can lead to outstanding results,” he adds.
The bottom line is, office politics is a reality that cannot be avoided. Species such as devilish bosses, backbiting colleagues and annoying subordinates will always be omnipresent. The trick, Mahrajan says, is how one works around them to skyrocket their career.
The savviest professionals practice workplace diplo-macy. They remain attuned to political undercurrents, but do not allow themselves to get pulled into situations that could compromise their working relationships or reputations.