Office politics pervade office environments worldwide; it's not a malaise confined solely to your office in India. If you have faced or are currently facing it, rest assured you are not the first or the last person to do so. Politics, in its various forms, exists everywhere – from family dynamics to the workplace, and even in the realm of actual politics. Fundamentally, it revolves around power and ambition, the pursuit of advancement. This is ingrained in human nature, as the world primarily consists of two types of people: leaders and followers. Followers tend to gather around leaders, seeking to gain favor. A leader is someone who possesses or is perceived to possess power, irrespective of the sphere in which that power lies.
Having worked in corporate environments across the country, in companies with staff sizes ranging from 20 to 2000 and beyond, I can attest that the number of people within a company is inconsequential. I have witnessed the formation of factions within small organizations leading to intense conflicts, as well as groups of over 100 individuals devoid of political struggles. I have personally faced these challenges and, at times, encountered unsavory aspects of it. Instances of individuals conspiring to oust rivals, even succeeding, are not uncommon. In some cases, these machinations are discovered, resulting in disgraceful departures.
Both bosses and company owners are not immune to office politics. Company owners often manipulate employees against each other to serve their own agendas. It's highly likely that most owners have their favorites or even what I'd refer to as "informers." Such individuals are easy for an owner or boss to identify, as they create an illusion of job security or advancement opportunities for employees or subordinates.
In my perspective, approaching office politics is straightforward: it's unhelpful, depletes your energy, and frequently fills your mind with negativity. If you find conversations revolving around colleagues, particularly negative ones, occurring around you, find a tactful way to excuse yourself and exit the situation. Depending on the circumstances and the conversation, you'll need to adapt and remove yourself. If circumstances prevent you from doing so, you can attribute it to your current workload or an impending deadline and distance yourself while the conversation continues around you.
Resist the urge to interject, though I acknowledge that it can be challenging. This is especially true when witnessing injustice toward a colleague. However, restrain your impulse to express your opinion openly. Instead, you might choose to address the issue with a relevant senior or the HR department, maintaining a rational and non-emotional tone. Focus on discussing rules and similar matters, avoiding personal involvement.
What do you do when a boss or company owner expects you to engage in the political game? This is a delicate situation that requires astute judgment. You must navigate a path where you avoid becoming entangled in their schemes without displeasing or irritating them. If you find yourself a target of office politics, remain vigilant and attentive. Focus even more on your work and pay special attention to maintaining effective communication with those who hold influence. Allow your performance to speak for itself, overshadowing the negativity swirling around. If the situation escalates, don't hesitate to respond in kind. They say that the best defense is a good offense but exercise this strategy judiciously. Gauge the appropriate extent to which you should deploy your tactics.
Escaping office politics is a formidable challenge, no matter how diligently you attempt to do so. Stay vigilant, make wise choices, and whenever possible, avoid involvement. It can potentially drain your performance and even derail your career.