Have you ever been a victim of office politics? Sometimes, it’s the work environment that creates workplace politics, but sometimes it’s choices you make about how you treat your customers and coworkers
Are You Creating Advocates or Detractors Behind Your Back?
You can create advocates among your customers and end-users by delivering outstanding customer service and supporting your coworkers. Advocates speak well of you when you’re not around to speak up for yourself. The opposite occurs when you create detractors by not supporting your coworkers or not providing outstanding customer service.
Detractors can torpedo careers in a process I call “death by water cooler” when they speak poorly of you behind your back. The way we treat our end-users, customers, and coworkers determines the result. This doesn’t mean you agree to everything. Nor does it mean you let people walk all over you. It means that you always treat your end-users or customers with respect, compassion, and empathy and that you carefully listen to them to ensure you truly understand their needs.
Stephen Covey, in his landmark book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People discusses emotional currency. That’s like a bank account in which you get to make a deposit every time you have a positive interaction with another person, but you must make a withdrawal every time you lose your temper, say something sarcastic, or otherwise treat another person poorly. To build a strong defense and avoid being a victim of office politics, you must build a large bank account of emotional currency.
A 12-Step Approach to Avoid Being a Victim of Office Politics
There are no guarantees when dealing with other people. People are unpredictable, from new hires to senior management. There are some work environments that are so highly political that your best choice may be to leave and find work elsewhere.
That being said, however, here are some rules for surviving when working with other people:
Be polite. Remember your manners. Say please, thank you, and you’re welcome.
Apologize when you make a mistake. Just own it. Apologize to anyone affected by it. Be prepared to put in extra time and effort making it right.
Be helpful. Look for ways to help others, to lift others up, and to create a better experience for everyone. It might be something as simple as picking up trash on the floor, holding the door for someone, or helping carry packages in from a car. It might also be something like mentoring a new employee or helping a coworker who is struggling.
Avoid sarcasm and cynicism. Most people find sarcasm and cynicism off-putting and want to avoid being around people like that. Negativity brings people down and undermines team efforts. Don’t do that!
Do excellent work. Remember the competence principle of the 5 Principles of IT Customer Service Success. Strive to be the best in the world at the technologies you support. Stay current.
Be patient. Think about the times others have been patient with you while you struggled to understand something or solve a problem.
Learn tact. Remember Meryl Runion’s great advice in her book Power Phrases, “Say what you mean. Mean what you say. And don’t be mean when you say it.”
Use empathy. Imagine how the other person feels and think about what you would want if you were in their position.
Don’t gossip. Be careful what you say about others. Ask yourself if you’d be comfortable saying the same thing directly to that person. This is true of all people, especially your boss. This is true whether it’s in-person or on social media. Essentially, this means that you avoid making others victims of office politics.
Assume that anything you post on social media will be seen by everyone and may re-appear in your life years later. Be careful what you say. Be especially careful what you write and post!
Be dependable. Do what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it.
Document. Keep a journal of what happens in your work life. Include your successes. Also include any conflicts.
Be a pleasant professional. The characteristics of a pleasant professional include being a master in your field of expertise, easy to work with, being dependable, dressing appropriately for your organization, having an agreeable demeanor, doing more than is expected (under promise and over deliver), communicating well with customers and coworkers, maintaining high moral and ethical standards, be generous in giving credit to others, accept responsibility for your mistakes, share your resources and knowledge, and be generous with your gratitude for others’ contributions (say thank you).
Model the behavior you want in others. Remember, people don’t do what you say. They do what you do. Whether you’re in an official leadership position or not, you can still lead others by the choices you make about your own behavior.
Did you notice that we didn’t suggest playing political games yourself? Doing so may achieve some short-term success, but in the long-term can haunt you by undermining your reputation. Don’t lower yourself to the level of those who play petty corporate political games, even when you feel like you’re becoming a victim of office politics.
Also, if you work in an office with a highly politically-charged environment, you may want to consider looking for a position elsewhere. As difficult as it can be to change jobs, toxic work environments can be debilitating and demoralizing.
Follow these 12 steps in your dealings with other people and you’ll build advocates, people who will speak up for you behind your back, instead of detractors. That’s how you deal with office politics!
Want more? Check out our on-demand customer service training for IT professionals, based on my books The Compassionate Geek and The 5 Principles of IT Customer Service Success.
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