Most anyone you talk to will say they try to avoid office politics. I've heard a variety of horror stories that allude to manipulation, sabotage, power struggles, and petty gossip. However, I've also heard stories where people team up together and make positive changes. In order to understand how to manage it, you must first understand what it is and what it isn't.
The dictionary.com definition of politics is, "activities within an organization that are aimed at improving someone's status or position." With this definition, one could safely assume that the organization you work for is the office, and the activities or actions you participate in are with the intention of improving your status at work. One could easily interpret the intention to be positive or negative depending on the actions of the person.
It can be difficult to completely avoid this because work is an environment in which you are interacting with others. You can't control what other's intentions, actions, or words are. You can only be responsible for your own intentions, actions, and words. So let's look at ways to navigate the politics so that you aren't getting lost in it.
1. Define your values. If you look at the company you work for, do their values align with yours? If so, you're in the right place. If not, it may be time to re-evaluate your options.
2. Have you ever heard the Irish Proverb: Not my circus, not my monkeys? It basically means - not my problem. If someone is struggling with something that doesn't concern you, and they aren't asking for your help, let it be. It can be triggering and difficult to let it go, but it can also make your life a lot harder if you do not. You may be inviting a problem into your life that would have originally not been a problem. When someone's circus starts to mess with your circus - then it's your problem. When it starts to affect you, it's okay to get involved.
3. Do your research. How is this affecting you? Is it hurting you? Is this something you can create a solution for? What will most likely happy if you don't confront it versus if you do confront it? Basically, weigh your options - Is this something that is worth confronting?
4. Communicate with the people who are affecting you negatively if it's worth confronting. See if you can collaborate with them or if you need to set a boundary instead.
5. Be clear with your intentions. When we aren't transparent, it can be easy to misinterpret and then you can become part of the office politics unintentionally.
6. What is the intention behind the other person's actions/words? Sometimes we can get lost with how it affects us and it becomes easier to then take it personally. Do you think it was the person's intention to hurt you? If so - probably best to avoid this person if possible or leave. If not - how can you move forward? Can you let it go? Or do you need to confront it?
Now that you have some ways of understanding and managing the dreaded office politics, it can be easy to see why some people call it a game. If you "play" it right, you can use it to your advantage; and on the other side, if you aren't careful how you "play", it can really damage your career. You don't have to think of it like a game if that bothers you; for some people this analogy doesn't fit who they are. You can look at it as observing. You can take a step back, asses the situation, and then respond accordingly. You don't have to "play". You can just choose to be "mindful".