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1 Feb 2016

How to Deal with Office Politics as a Manager

Managers are a key source of power and politics in the workplace. Often without knowing it, they make office politics worse. Knowing how to deal with office politics as a manager stems this. The team works better. The company benefits.

Why Office Politics Blindside Managers

When it come to how to deal with office politics as a manager, there are two main reasons office politics blindside managers.

In understanding how to deal with office politics as a manager, it’s important to grasp the rippling effect the interaction with a single employee can have.

There are two main reasons office politics blindside managers as they lead their teams:

  1. Managers, as with others, think office politics do not exist if they do not take part.
  2. Managers drastically underestimate the rippling effect that their words, actions and relationships have on rest of the team.

Diving into what are office politics, one finds they are relationships. When managers ignore politics, they ignore relationships. This puts them at risk. It puts their teams at risk.

Managers forget employees like to talk about them. They listen and watch managers closely. They compare their relationships with their managers with those that others have.

Two Strategies on How to Deal with Office Politics as a Manager

How to deal with office politics as a manager has two broad strategies. They entail managing the:

  1. Relationships the manager has with each employee
  2. Perceptions others have about the relationship

The relationship each employee has with the manager directly effects office politics. As is commonly touted, keeping performance separate from the person is important. The error occurs when the manager only talks performance.

No matter the performance, the manager needs to talk about the person’s intrinsic values and talents. For example:

  • “You did well with this project. Your work ethic and talent for data pulled us through.”
  • “The results was below what we need. I know though that work ethic and talent for data can get us to where we need to be.”

Context and time influence employees’ perceptions about the relationships managers have with other employees. A 30-minute discussion during the day at work sends a different public message than the same discussion over an hour lunch at an eatery. Managers must remember that employees are always watching.

Protecting Team from Office Politics

Totally removing office politics is not real. Knowing how to deal with office politics as a manager protects the team. That means reinforcing the person and managing perceptions of relationships.

This also means accepting that managers can make office politics worse without knowing it. Giving better context and more time to those we like is human nature. Unmanaged though, it fuels office politics.

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