The 2016 presidential campaign has reached an all-time low. The name calling, insults, and belittling jabs between Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz do not reflect well on these candidates seeking a vote of confidence from the electorate. For those of us who never had very positive feelings about politics, the campaign validates our mindset and strengthens our belief that politics is dirty and deceitful. Our gut reaction might be disgust, and the consequence of this most likely is the avoidance of all politics.
So when we encounter politics in the workplace, we tend to see it in the same negative light. We react much the same way we do when we witness national or local politics in action. We avoid it. We believe we are taking the high road by remaining under the radar.
In the research I’ve done on this topic for my book, The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, I learned that the reality of office politics differs by gender. Men are very much a part of the everyday politics, yet rarely acknowledge it. They don’t have to think much about it because of the welcoming and supportive workplace culture. Women are excluded from the inner power circles that run most companies today, find comfort in their work, and discomfort with the politics. They are much more likely than men to have unfavorable feelings about politics in the workplace. They are also more likely to feel victimized by the culture and workplace dynamics.
On a national and local level, we can’t control the negative politics. We cast our vote, perhaps volunteer or donate to support our candidate, and then watch it all play out on Election Day. With office politics, however, we can not only control our mindset, but how we choose to engage. We can practice positive politics and not lose our integrity in the process.
Here are some tips for engaging in positive politics in the workplace:
Pay attention to the workplace dynamics.
Make it your intention and focus to understand your work environment. Know where the loyalties and biases lie. How do they influence the way decisions are made, in particular, decisions that affect your career? Paying attention pays off as the dynamics are in a constant state of flux in most organizations and the power shifts create new rules and unwritten rules you need to be aware of.
Don’t underestimate the power of saboteurs. They should always be on your radar and you should always be prepared to diffuse their influence. Build a network of influencers around them and align yourself with positive and honest colleagues.
Find allies and champions
Your best defense is to have a network of supportive people at all levels in the organization who understand your value and are willing to advocate for you. When your name comes up in conversation, these contacts will stand up for you. They will also feed you valuable information about the politics and potential power plays that may affect you.
Understand your value proposition
Once you understand how you contribute to successful business outcomes, you can position yourself and a valued asset to your team, your boss, and your company. Knowing your value helps you to create relationships of trust and influence across the organization. You gain respect through your successful work without bragging and backlash. You make your mark on the basis of the value you bring to the organization, not by stepping on others.
Create mutually beneficial relationships
How can you help others reach their goals? How can you help your team, your boss, your department, your company be successful? You gain visibility and credibility by letting others know how your value can help them. Offering to help builds trust. Pay it forward in a positive way and others will stand up for you in return.
Don’t get dragged down by the gossip
You want to build loyalty with your network, but not at the expense of your integrity. It may be easy to be drawn into some of the company dirt, but that’s a dangerous road to travel. Beware of potential landmines and dire consequences if you get caught in a situation that blows up. Avoid the rumor mill.