Office politics is a term that carries a negative connotation, and for good reason. When politics are played without genuine intentions for the betterment of the organization, it can indeed lead to chaos and division. However, it’s crucial to recognize that politics, in a broader sense, is an inevitable part of the workplace.
I hosted the most recent Datos Insights Women’s Network virtual meeting on the topic of navigating politics. Our panel included Amy Aluyi (Director of Strategic Portfolio Management at Pekin Insurance), Darchelle Caces (Senior Director, Project Management at Trustmark), and Martina Conlon (Head of Insurance at Datos Insights). In our discussion, we explored why navigating office politics is a necessity, the specific challenges women often face in this arena, strategies for effectively handling office politics, and how to keep politics from derailing productivity and collaboration.
Why We Must Navigate Politics
“I think the negative connotation with politics comes from when you have people who are truly playing games and perhaps don’t have the best intentions in terms of what’s best for the organization,” shared one of our panelists. The perception of politics as a dirty game is rooted in instances where individuals prioritize personal gain over the well-being of the organization. However, it’s essential to distinguish between harmful political maneuvering and the need to build and strengthen workplace relationships.
Navigating office politics is a necessity; in organizations, both small and large, politics exist to varying degrees. Even in tightly-knit teams, one cannot entirely cocoon themselves from the broader organizational dynamics. Building the right relationships and fostering collaboration are vital aspects of navigating office politics.
Creating Relationships to Unite, Not Divide
Building relationships beyond your immediate team is crucial for success and influence within the organization. Rather than viewing politics as divisive, we should approach it as a tool for bringing people together. Instead of taking sides and fostering conflict, we should strive to unite individuals within the organization. Building bridges between teams and departments can lead to more effective communication, problem-solving, and decision-making.
Challenges Women Face in Office Politics
Women often face unique challenges in navigating office politics. They are sometimes penalized for displaying political skill and judged more harshly for being assertive or competitive. This bias can hinder women’s career progression and perpetuate gender inequalities in the workplace.
One panelist shared an anecdote about a female leader in their organization who, despite her succinct and objective approach, faced skepticism and doubts about her motives. Men and women need to recognize and challenge these biases, ensuring that strong female leaders are not labeled as “aggressive” for their assertiveness.
Strategies for Navigating Office Politics
Effectively navigating office politics requires a strategic approach. Here are some key strategies to consider:
- Building credibility and influence: Talk about your accomplishments to build your credibility and influence within the organization. Tie your accomplishments and goals to the goals of the company and encourage your teams to do the same. This helps connect them to the purpose of the company and provides more satisfaction.
- Networking: Actively engage in networking both on and off the job. Schedule one-on-one meetings with stakeholders and approach these interactions with a clear agenda for aligning goals and outcomes.
- Confidence and authenticity: Be confident and authentic in your interactions. Authenticity enhances confidence and helps build trust with colleagues.
- Transparency: Avoid engaging in gossip or “the meeting after the meeting.” If you have an issue with someone, address it directly rather than discussing it with others.
- Avoid internal competition: Focus on competing with external competitors rather than colleagues within the organization.
Navigating office politics is an essential skill in today’s workplace, regardless of gender. While it can be challenging, adopting a strategic and ethical approach can help you build positive relationships, influence outcomes, and contribute to the success of your organization. By recognizing the challenges women face, supporting one another, and promoting authenticity, we can create a more inclusive and effective work environment where office politics serve as a means to unite, not divide.
Our next Datos Insights Women’s Network virtual meeting will take place on October 25th at 10 a.m. ET on the topic of Rethinking AI in Insurance, led by Datos Insights Head of Insurance Martina Conlon. Register here to join us.