When you started out in the work you are in now, did you join for the office politics, OR the opportunity? Did you sign-up for the chance to gossip, OR develop your skill set? Did you want to further your conversations around the water cooler, OR become a better mentor to your team?
In any career, there is a honeymoon period when you are 110 percent focused on what you are doing and not on all the politics that surround your work. Such things like:
- Who is nice to whom?
- Who is going to back your ideas in a meeting?
- Who ingratiates themselves endlessly to whom?
- What rules do you need to follow to further your career?
When you look back on this period in time, it’s with great fondness and positive feelings originating from not knowing all these games around office politics. You are instead focused on the development of your team, yourself, and your work.
Our work speaks for itself; our actions define us, and what we do as a team showcases our desire to work together as one unit towards one goal.
But slowly, side discussions – whether by the water cooler, instant messages, or SLACK channels – will sneak its way into daily tasks, until they’re no longer side conversations but now full-blown dialogues taking time away from your actual work.
Avoiding Office Politics Before It Begins
It starts innocently enough…
“Look, you should know…”
“Here’s why it’s not going to work…”
“Watch out for…”
Then it continues, taking on more and more negative tones, consuming more of your time until it is all that consumes you. It becomes all that you think about, even when delivering your work, all that you focus on during important events.
There will come a moment when you’ll feel as though you’ve become too involved and the weight of all the negativity will make it hard to breathe. You never considered any of these discussions before. You never cared about them – but now, they influence what you deliver (and perhaps when) all under the guise of “playing the game”.
Avoid office politics for the sole reason that it serves NO purpose at all – no growth in your career, no additional development in your learning, no focused attention to what you should be doing, no help to your team, no advancement of your goals as a leader, nothing.
In short, office politics is the disease that will slowly eat away at you as you continue to give into them, more and more until you reach the point where you can no longer handle it. You will then feel as though you only have one option left to free yourself – leave.
Don’t reach this point. Don’t hit the point when you toss away an opportunity because you couldn’t handle the politics. At that point in your career, you’ve let someone else judge you, someone else to decide what path your career should take. You’ve given in to judgmental people – not on their work but on the environment surrounding the work.
If you’re at that point where you are feeling all consumed, then leave. Find something new, start fresh, and start over. If you can stay within the same company and merely switch groups, even better.
But when you make that switch, remember everything you’ve gone through. Remember everything you did and don’t forget where you want to go.
Most importantly, don’t let the cycle repeat itself.