By Debra Davenport
According to author Marilyn Haight of BigBadBoss.com, office politics "is the use of one's individual or assigned power within an employing organization for the purpose of obtaining advantages beyond one's legitimate authority."
People engage in office politics to reap financial, emotional and even physical rewards. Those who engage the most vigorously often have significant unmet needs, a specific agenda, a desire for power, and the ability to forgo ethics and integrity in order to get what they want.
Understanding the human ritual of politicking is essential for everyone in business. Practicing these eight tips will help you navigate your way through tricky political waters:
Courtesy, respect, politeness and office etiquette start and end with you. Show your coworkers kindness, and encourage them to do the same.
Sometimes the game of office politics can get downright nasty, and there's nothing you can do but get in the ring. But before the fur starts to fly, focus on the issue, not the person. Address behaviors, never the individual. Handle confrontations privately, fairly and without judgment.
Keep Your Cool
Nothing that happens at the office is worth a heart attack. In the big scheme of things, will the issue matter in a week? A month? A year? As you keep things in perspective, you will also be less prone to turning incidents into catastrophes. Strive for equanimity at all times.
Forgive and Forget
If you've been maligned, candidly address the issue at the source. Then shake hands and move on. Bearing grudges or, worse, returning fire will serve only to damage your own reputation.
Don't Play Favorites
Motivational speaker Earl Nightingale once said, "Treat everyone as though they are the most important person in the world, because to them they are." Great advice. Remember, no one is better than anyone else.
Keep It Zipped
While office gossip and chatter can be titillating, it can also be cruel. Think of gossip as spam or junk mail and hit the "delete" button. When people approach you with juicy details about Mr. or Ms. So-and-So, politely put a stop to the conversation and exit. When gossipmongers realize that no one is listening, they'll quiet down and get back to work.
If you're in a hiring capacity, screen potential new hires carefully. Ask candidates how they feel about workplace politics and how they might react in difficult situations.
Accept the fact that office politics happen in every workplace. If you spend all of your time worrying about water-cooler chatter, you'll never have time to manage your own projects. Some degree of complacency will keep you sane.
[Debra Davenport, PhD, is an Executive Professional Mentor, organizational development expert, career counselor and the president of DavenportFolio.]