The political arena is not the only place where politics plays out. It can be seen in a variety of ways in every office, big or small. The reason, as Dale Carnegie says, is simple: “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic but creatures of emotions.”Most people who partake in office politics do so to get ahead. How do they do that? Gossiping and spreading rumors is the most popular form of politicking. Others include taking credit for others’ work, sabotaging colleagues’ work or gaining favor by sucking up to the boss. The psychological take explains things further. Psychologist Robert Hogan observed that the dynamics of workplace relationships can be classified into three basic evolutionary needs or “master motives” - the need to get along, which promotes cooperation; the need to get ahead, which results from power struggles; and the need to find meaning, during the climb up office hierarchy. Identifying the different types of office politicians you’re likely to bump into at the workplace will make it easier to handle them. After all, forewarned is forearmed. The Big Ego S/he has to be right. Each and every time. Even if s/he isn’t, you can’t say so. They may talk a lot about teamwork, but when push comes to shove, it’s their way or the highway. They are the ones who encourage people who like to flatter their way up the ladder. What you can do: Talk hard facts to ensure there’s no chance for the narcissist to emerge in simple conversations.
The Bully We may be out of school and college, but we haven’t left the bully behind. The Bully uses the same ploys here – verbal and, sometimes, mental intimidation. They live to put others down, belittling other people’s work, ideas, speech, outfit… anything that doesn’t match their sensibilities. What you can do: Identify how you are enabling the bullying pattern and set boundaries to cut the bully off.
The ClimberFor this person, the only thing that matters is climbing the office ladder. It doesn’t matter if the position doesn’t take them to the top and just shifts them laterally; if there’s a rung empty, s/he has to be on it. And it doesn’t matter what they need to do to get there – though backstabbing and flattering their seniors are their weapons of choice.
What you can do: Sidestep any political alliances and don’t feed him or her any kind of information.
The Gossip MongerThis person is the official know-it-all and is most commonly seen near the water cooler, coffee machine or the washbasin in the restrooms. They love to know what’s happening around the office and to spread the word. Be it spilling personal secrets or sharing official information, they’ll gladly tell all.
What you should do: Communicate with the gossipmonger strictly on a need-to-know basis.
The Late LatifThe last person to stagger in, be it into the workplace or the meeting room, this person uses the habit of unpunctuality to advantage. It’s what helps them get out of meetings, submit incomplete tasks, do sloppy work and expect others to clean up behind them.
What you can do: Be proactive and deal with the situation as soon as you see a pattern emerging.
The Credit ChorWho hasn’t been at the receiving end of this politician’s doing? This person will do all that s/he can to take the credit – for new ideas, meeting deadlines, completed projects and even the company’s success.
What you can do: Keep your boss updated and make sure you leave behind a paper trail.
The AdviserMost organisations often have a couple of persons who occupy positions of trust. The adviser is one who company leaders confide in and turn to for advice. Even though you may not think so, the adviser wields a lot of influence behind the scenes.
What you can do: Staying on the right side of this person will benefit you in the long run.
Other politicians you’re likely to meet in the office once in a while are the Innocent Bystander, the one who just sees but won’t say anything; the Flatterer, who passes out compliments just to win people over; the Backstabber, who’ll leave no stone unturned to run you down behind your back; the Campaigner, who works super hard to sway opinions in his or her favor; and the Saboteur, whose only agenda is to benefit him or herself.
In an article titled The Underlying Psychology of Office Politics in Harvard Business Review, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic wrote that “office politics tend to eclipse formal organisational roles and hijack critical organisational processes, making simple tasks complex and tedious, and organisations ineffective; wearing people out and accounting for a significant portion of work-related stress and burnout”.
So make things easier for yourself by recognising these office politicians and dealing with them in the best way possible.