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Keeping above office politics

May 10, 2016

By Lisa Dare

Sometimes a team hums along fine, getting work done and making collaborative decisions with ease. And sometimes office politics get in the way.

While IT pros are particularly impatient with office politics (a prime reason may turn to IT consulting), everyone gets sucked into them on occasion. But staying above the fray will save you a lot of stress while helping you establish a good professional reputation. Here's how to do it: 

1. Be direct

If you practice clear and direct communication from the time you start a new position, people will expect it of you. And while coworkers may not always want to hear your feedback in the moment, most will reflect on it in privacy later. This type of honesty—given to the people it concerns and no one else—goes a long way to preventing the misunderstandings that fuel unpleasant office politics. 

Being direct doesn’t mean setting free every stray thought that lopes through your head, however. You can hold your tongue when your opinion won’t change the outcome of a decision, or after the fact. (Also avoid commenting on your coworkers' questionable taste in music, cologne or presidential candidate).

2. Practice discretion

Exercise your willpower: You’ll never regret a snarky remark you didn’t make or a choice piece of office gossip you didn’t pass along.

If you need someone to talk to, make sure to choose your confidante carefully. Look for the person who never gossips or reveals others’ secrets.

3. Build relationships of trust

An unusual tip for reducing office politics is to invest in your coworker relationships. Learn about what they care about and their lives outside work. Take time to understand their long-term goals.

On the surface this may seem like a weird idea. While minimizing human contact may mean you’ll stay out of office politics, you need people to trust you to be effective at your job. And if they don’t understand you—and you don’t get what motivates them—they won’t be able to see your honorable intentions, or know that it's a good idea to invest in you or trust your opinions.

At TEKsystems, our internal culture emphasizes emotional honesty to a degree I’ve never experienced before. While this makes for an unusually intense work experience—and takes a lot of commitment from the organization and employees—the benefits are very clear. Even the relationships that start off on the wrong foot have many opportunities to improve (and how often do you see that in most workplaces?). While office politics is the enemy of both workplace happiness and progress, trusting relationships allow employees to commit fully to work and accomplish great things.

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