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A Survival Guide to Dealing with Office Politics and How to embrace them?

What is Office Politics Meaning?

Office Politics is one of the most feared topics in business. But, it is crucial because everyone deals with it. Say it’s your job or your level or your boss. It doesn’t matter. Every professional should openly talk about it instead of shutting behind the closed door. In this article, we discuss five basic principles grounded in Psychology, how our brains were wired and supposed to work. Office Politics might get a bad reputation, but it all depends on the person using it. You can choose to use it for doing good or doing poorly. We all remember what spiderman used to say, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

Business psychology applies psychology concepts, which helps us understand how human beings behave or function in a workplace situation. Examples include managing people, communication with peers, and soft skills. The thing is, to do all these things, Office Politics is the key. If you want to be successful, you have to talk about it. You might think that you are not the person who does all these things, and you might do your work and leave. It applies only to the ideal world. It doesn’t apply to the dynamic business world we live in. Every firm or organization is political. You might also think, “I don’t want to play the politics.

But, people around you will not stop playing politics, and in the end, these are the guys who might get promotions and grow in their careers. So, if you do it well, you can be a change agent. Office Politics is a necessary evil, which we can’t ignore. It is an unspoken truth that exists everywhere. Rules always exist, but you don’t need to like them. You have to embrace them. You don’t have to select the rules to play a game, but you need to understand them. We need to adapt ourselves to them. So, to understand more, there are five principles you should understand.

1. People are not logical and rational

Yes, people are not logical and rational. Yet, we desperately want them to be rational and logical at work. But, there is a part in us we always knew that people are illogical. Are you still having doubts? Think about yourself, How many logical things you have done today? or What percentage of rational decisions you took out of all decisions. Illogical decision-making doesn’t mean that people don’t use data in decision-making. They use data to justify what they decided to do. They already made their decisions subconsciously. For understanding, perspective thinks of our brain with three parts, old brain, midbrain, and new brain.

  • The old brain is responsible for survival skillset (food, danger, and sex)
  • Midbrain is responsible for emotions and feelings
  • The new brain is responsible for processes and logical thinking.

If the decision is to deal with food (vs) danger (vs) sex, the old brain takes the decision immediately. But, if there is any other factor, then the old brain consults the midbrain, which is responsible for emotions and feelings. Many times we are not aware of our senses. We don’t know the real reason behind our sadness or happiness, and this is because the midbrain is responsible for non-verbal communication; it gets cues from the environment and thinks about it. For example, we are looking at someone and liking them in the first instance. It just processes and gives the final answer. But, it will never give how it got there. So, the decision is already made at a midbrain level. So, we got survival skills from the old brain, emotions from the midbrain.

And the last part is the new brain, which is responsible for logical thinking and processes. This part of the brain gets us into trouble because this is the only part of the brain we are consciously aware of procedures and logical thinking & decision making. The real problem is that just because we are conscious doesn’t mean that the new brain is an influential part of decision-making. A decision is generally made at an old brain level. If it can’t do, then the midbrain makes the decision-making. Our new brain is left with nothing. We use it to rationalize the decision of the midbrain.

photo of head bust print artwork
Psychology of Office Politics

In a nutshell, “Human beings make decisions Emotionally and justify them rationally.” What does that mean to Office Politics? So there is no such thing as objective reality because we filter out objective information basing on our emotional responses and that means Office Politics is irrational. So, even if we try to rely upon only logic and reason in data, we are doomed to fail. Because emotions always win over logic.

2. Relationships are your goal.

To put it in simple terms, you got to get people to like you no matter what. You have to build a bond and relationship with them. It doesn’t mean that they should respect you. Respect generally comes out as a negative aspect. for example, “I respect you, but….” or “with all due respect, I disagree to…..” Respect is different from people genuinely liking you. People always follow those guys whom they like. We will not follow leaders, we do not like. We generally find reasons not to like a person. In generally people always think that influence always comes from the organization chart. The only influence from the org chart is hiring people, firing people and giving performance reviews. It is the weakest type of influence that exist in the organization because it is hard to change. You are going to lose if you see yourself in the org chart.

Another way to influence is to proceed as an expert in something. If you are perceived as the smartest person in the building of what you do, you are going to have a good influence in that specific area. Here “PERCEIVE” is the keyword here to think. Just think about your boss and how did he get to that position. It is because he/she might have been perceived as really good at what he does and management had decided to give higher responsibilities. So the best way to build perception is by building a relationship.

There is a study done by the Dale Carnegie Foundation which states, “85% of success comes from soft skills and 15% comes from technical skills.” So relationships are like serious weapons that allow you to influence without a formal structure. Build relationships with people you work with not just from your department, but from all other functions and to that, you need to adapt to different tendencies

3. People have different natural tendencies

There are different styles of work and most people characterize them as introverts and extroverts. You just have to accept that different styles exist and they may or may not be the same as yours. Don’t judge them as good or bad. It is just a different approach. You have to look at it as unemotionally as you possibly can and you have to adapt your behaviour to what the person in front of you needs from you. Sometimes we face a lot of issues with people with the same work style as ours and we have to adapt differently. One of the best ways to do it is by mirroring them. Give them what they are giving you. If they are fast-paced, try to be fast and vice versa. If they want to have a small conversation with you, do small talk. Don’t resist them. If someone wants to work in closed doors, then don’t bother them by trying to make them socialize. Just adapt to them. Be conscious of what they need. Most of the time it may not about you. Just be considerate.

Another thing is, you cannot build relationships over emails. Stop letting emails run your social relationships at work. If you are trying to build a relationship with people, it is never going to happen over email. Get up out of your chair and talk to them. Let them know the tone and inflexion of your voice. Stop doing emails, unless it’s necessary. You will build relationships much faster without emails. The last thing to do is to “be vulnerable.” Google did a study a few years back, where they looked at all of the different teams in their organization and they found that the most successful teams were the teams who felt safe to take the risks with each other and be vulnerable in front of each other. So if we don’t have our safety needs met, we can’t get to the good stuff. It’s not always about you being vulnerable. If you can help other people to be vulnerable and psychologically safe, that is going to build the relationship strong. If you can find a way to give them their power back. The phrase “That’s not my job” is one of the worst phrases in any organization. This is not about the Job description. This is about building human relationships. Treat the people, the way they want to be treated and that’s how you can build a good relationship and then they will follow you till the end.

4. Look for the win-win

This is one of the most important things to understand. Being successful doesn’t mean you have to walk over all other people. Success doesn’t mean you have to defeat other people to get a win. You have to find a way to make sure everyone wins. Another word to that is COMPROMISE. Stop thinking that success means getting 100% of what you need. If you get 50 or 60% of what you need and if you can give rest to someone else, that will help you to build a better relationship. If you are getting 100% in everything, you are pissing someone else and we have learned in the previous section that pissing someone off, doesn’t help you to build a better relationship.

Identify your enemies in the organization. Identify whose goals are identical to yours and whose don’t. In any organization, resources are always limited and other people are also going towards the same goals. This is where you should implement your win-win strategy. Give them what they want, give them a win. It will benefit you in long term. If you are doing this frequently, they are going to stop being your enemy. In Sun Tzu’s Book, Art of war he says, ” Build your enemy a golden bridge to retreat across.”

5. Pick your battles

It’s not always easy to give everything that we want. This is where we have to figure out to pick our own battles. Office Politics is not finite. There is no end to it, but it’s always fluid. Don’t use all your Office Politics in fighting all battles and you will lose all your points when you really need it. So you have to make sure you pick your battles right. Sometimes, picking your battle means keeping your mouth shut. Always ask yourself, What am I winning, If I am opening my mouth? What opening my mouth lose me? A good rule of thumb is, if you find yourself in between heated conversations with a boss or colleague, take a step back. We all get it we are so confident in our work and so passionate about it so that it may end up in heated conversation.

Too much passion can hold you back and it may halt your career success. You got to detach. If you detach, you won’t allow your ego to make decisions for you. You allow your logic and reason (new brain) to make your decisions. It’s going to be difficult if you do it for the very first time. But, if you do it over and over again, you can get more success than you ever dreamed of. So it’s not about being right. It’s about being effective. Stop trying to prove yourself all the time. It’s not going to help you in long term.


Office Politics are not necessarily evil. We have learned how human beings function in the work environment. At the end of the day, it’s all about building human connections and it will make you happier than ever and more effective at work. So in the nutshell –

  • Always be empathetic
  • Try to be flexible
  • Also, be vulnerable
  • Be likeable
  • Know when to keep mouth shut
  • Balance your relationships well

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