Educational programs teach young professionals that the World is “fair”, “success comes from hard work”, “bad employees get fired”, “good employees are always rewarded”. I have been there, so has anyone at the beginning of their career. For most, this moment of “facing reality” makes a lasting mark on their career. Yet it has a way of shaping your career while you are not aware of it.
Personally speaking, it took me quite some time (and job changes) to settle into the idea of office politics. Today I understand that if you want to make it, you have to be prepared to face it.
Office politics are like the WEATHER
The easiest way to understand office politics is to compare it to the weather. Sometimes it is beneficial, sometimes it is not. One day you are comfortable with the weather because you can do whatever you have planned. Other days your plans will have to change because the weather changed too. In other words, YOU CAN ADAPT BUT YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE WEATHER.
Why is this parallel so important for first time professionals?
Well, when you enter your first job you are bound to face this phenomenon. You might not feel it at first but you are going to collide with it sooner or later. When this happens, you are going to look back at everything you have learned at school. And this is the first MISTAKE.
I am not saying it is your fault, but the educational system does not teach about workplace and culture setbacks. Because of this, you are going to start to become frustrated, stressed and even depressed. You are going to start to resent going to work even though you have just started. And this is not good.
What you need to know about office politics?
Office politics run on gossip and rumors.
Politics rely on information. Information gets spread by the internal company grapevine. The information comes from shady sources usually rumors. Some of the information might even be lies.
Office politics are not bound by job descriptions and hierarchy.
Office politics do not correlate with the hierarchy of the company or of the job descriptions of the people involved in it. This phenomenon brings together people of different areas of the company with different professional and personal backgrounds.
Office politics are all about influence and personal agenda.
The ONLY reason why office politics exists is to push personal agendas. Often employees lack qualifications to further their career. So instead, they do everything that needs to be done to rise up the ladder. Other times they are also ready to influence decision about others. But remember – it is always about personal agenda.
Office politics are contagious and damaging
Office politics can seem like a forbidden fruit. For young professionals it can be intriguing and even fun. When regularly practised, you lose a lot of time in the day, get distracted often and lack focus.
Office politics have short term effects
Last, you might say: “…..but ___ got promoted because of his influence….” Yes that is often the case, but office politics has only short term effects. It might work once, maybe twice, but the time spent on it is time wasted. You could instead talk about ideas, learn something new or just relax.
2 Things to Remember
Office politics are like the weather. You cannot change it. You are too young and inexperienced to have any influence or power to change it. So don’t waste your time.
When you are directly influenced by office politics in a negative way – remind yourself of your personal vision. This was just a hiccup. Get up, brush off and continue on your path.