5 Key Ways of Dealing with Non-Traditional Office Politics
Today I had a wonderful conversation with my intern that brought back so many memories of when I first starting out as an artist. I thought I would conquer the fashion world by working in a corporate office on 5th avenue and jet setting around the world on private planes. The reality I was presented with was short term job positions with some of the most vicious people you could ever meet; that was in the 90’s.
I fled the scene and started working for nonprofits. At the time, nonprofit work was not as popular as it is today so you didn’t have to deal with the trappings of “Office Politics” as much. Everyone knows what office politics looks like in the corporate world so I won’t bore you with a description of it but it plays out a bit differently in the nonprofit field.
The word NONPROFIT is key here as I move forward in this article because there are many who work very hard in this field but do not get paid. There are others who have a special skill set for a specific project or job and that’s why they get paid. Paid projects are short term and most jobs (unless you are the director or the COO) are short lived. The fragileness of these financial ecosystems are why office politics even exist. Most don’t even work in nonprofits for the money. Many do it for the power and the connections to gain other sources of income or things of equal monetary value.
A few weeks ago I had a woman who I really thought loved me completely stop talking to me because I gained more money from a nonprofit. Now this same women didn’t want to do the job when it was not compensated and even quit projects around this position because she claimed she was unhappy. I could’ve told her I am doing it for free but that was going to catch up to me real fast. The sad part is that she really isn’t mad about the money, only about the imaginary power this project will bring me in this nonprofit.
The case stated above is just one sick little land mind you might encounter but there are others and here’s how you can defeat them:
1. Observe The Chain Of Command But Know When To Ignore it
Job titles can be a real trap and when you are working with others you might be presented with a person who has a title but no real power. They might try to create imaginary power through office politics and that’s where the trouble comes in… TAKE A WALK! Especially if that person is trying to get another person’s job by spreading rumors and lobbying against them. It’s also tempting to try to fight back by pointing out how wrong this person is but DON’T DO IT! I speak from personal experience when I say that it’s you that will be labeled the bad guy.
2. Be Transparent About Money
Now I know everyone is thinking “Screw That Sh*T” my pocket is my business and you’re right but in a fragile financial ecosystem, what you collect might be your downfall. If your job involves working with people and those people think you are getting something they should be getting that might affect being able to do your job. Never give a dollar number but always admit when you get a bit more and allow people to have whatever feelings they want about it.
3. Combat Passive Aggressiveness With Kindness
This one is hard but it’s worth it. If you’re working with a bunch of monsters simply scare them with love. I always include in my correspondences keywords like wonderful, awesome, terrific, and fantastic. Try finding something wrong with that email. You should also never respond to anything in anger. I once had an extremely manipulative and mildly racist co-worker send me an office text she knew I would get mad at. Then she read my reply to her entire office staff just to show people how unprofessional I am. No response is a better response.
4. Be The Example
If you don’t like the working office culture, show them something different. In a work situation where your reputation will last longer than your income it’s best to keep to task and save your fights for the completion of that task and nothing more. If people are going to get mad at you it’s because you believe in what you are doing and are willing to fight for it.
5. Be The Bigger Person
Even if you are not wrong… admit you were wrong. Sounds stupid but it works! Point out completely imaginary ways you went wrong in the situation and your co-workers will back down. It’s no fun to kick a dead horse so just play dead.
Office politics can be annoying and somewhat awful but it’s all in how you respond. If played out properly it’s you who will come out on top as the winner.