Understanding Workplace Politics


This is the first part in a new series of Takes I will be posting about the employment world. A lot of what I’m covering is just too long for one post, so I will be going over them in individual parts. Although everyone can certainly read them, I will say I write this as geared more towards young people who are getting started in the workforce, because I’ve answered questions on GaG from young users dealing with workplace difficulties, toxic coworkers, bosses, and whatnot. And what I write applies in most types of work situations, whether it's retail or corporate sector.

Young people often get so frustrated with poor pay and all the nonsense they come into at work that they either quit or want to. No one helps them understand this new thing they’re getting into as they become older and need to start making their own money. All they are told is to go to work and build a career for themselves. Once they do, they find out how cruel and messy the employment world is - even when they’ve graduated with a degree. And many times they still can’t even get a job with that anymore in today’s world.

Understanding Workplace Politics

Outside of this Take, there is also a useful article on LinkedIn about why so many young people are quitting as well. I highly recommend the read https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/great-resignation-why-younger-employees-leaving-how-small-shinaver/

This could also be helpful for others who have been in the workforce for years, but I imagine they most likely already know these things. However, if it’s still beneficial then that’s great too.

So here we go.

Workplace cliques, politics, and back rubbing

It’s important to understand that at the end of the day, work really operates no differently than Capitol Hill, sports, or even school dynamics. It’s all about money for the company, friendships, connections, and inner politics. It’s almost never about the work itself or actual ethics. And unfortunately understanding these things and how they work is what will help you to move through it, or even climb the ladder if that’s your goal.

Understanding Workplace Politics

Jobs also expect you to be conformist and have group think. Groups are how people can be controlled, and workplace cliques are just as common as in school. Cliques create connections, and also have information about stuff going on, and when you know the tea you know what’s up behind closed doors. I am not saying operating like this is okay, but I am saying it’s how people move and sometimes even how they advance. Unfortunately knowing the work itself and becoming a pro doesn’t matter, it’s knowing the stuff in secret and the workplace politics that will help you climb. It’s knowing how the game is played.

Teacher's pets

Kissing the boss’s ass, sleeping with him, or buddying up to the HR lady, or being that person who reports everything they hear and always watches you hoping they can find something to tell, never care about the actual work, and are advancing regardless of work ethic. That is the sad truth. Why? Because they are useful for higher ups. People in high positions love getting information about others on the job, and not good information. It forms a basis for them to try to screw someone over by holding on to something about them as a secret record, something they can use at any point as a reason to keep them back from a promotion or as something to try to fire the person altogether.

Understanding Workplace Politics

Sometimes higher ups also let busy body tattle tales advance because those people can even rat on them too. And these busy bodies know this is the only way they’ll keep their job because deep down they also know they aren’t smart, not innovators, and have nothing to bring to the table in actual company value. So they use lowball strategy to survive.

There are people who have built their entire careers around shit-talking others, gossip, reporting people, trying to destroy them, giving head, or simply having group connections. All without actually caring about the work, only caring about getting somewhere where the pay is good and the status is higher. Meanwhile others are actually dedicated to their work but are still told to improve on this, or work harder at that. It’s all sports and politics.

Keep a friend or two

Sometimes we do have friends at work. Sometimes we do talk to others, and want to form a connection. And we want that person's trust and someone who can stand up for us if it really comes down to it. That's why you don't want to be entirely to yourself at work.

Understanding Workplace Politics

You will often hear people say things like "I don't talk to anybody at work, I just keep to myself" or "All I do is stay focused on my work and go home." In some sense that's good, and in others not so much. When you're a complete entity who associates with no one, you come off as non-approachable or as the person who is unable to work with people, which can also hinder your growth and chances at promotions. It can also rob you of having anyone in your court that supports you or is rooting for you if something goes down with you and someone else. You're going to want to have people in your court who can say good things about you in your defense if the situation is escalated to management or HR.

Be careful

Although you do want to have a friend or two, still be careful of people around you. Examine not just who is who but who their friends are as well. And be careful what you say to some of them because they can and will use it against you, or go back and tell it to their friends or the boss. And sometimes - which is a major red flag - your co-workers are literal buddies with your boss outside of work - and you may not figure that out until later, which is also why you want to be careful. You might say something to a co-worker who is going to tell it to the boss on their next night out at the bar or on the weekend when they're at a ball game or other event. And you can guarantee that your boss is going to use it as a reason to treat you a certain way from that point on, or to discipline you if what you said was particularly bad.

Understanding Workplace Politics

But keep in mind that even when you're doing everything right, staying out of groups, out of the politics and gossip, you can still be targeted by people at work. And in fact, you may be the most targeted because you're doing everything right. The human heart is wicked and loves harping on what's good, and unfortunately this is extremely present in the workplace. You will never escape it, you just have to learn to work around it.

Next up...

Hopefully this Take was a beneficial bit for your life in the work world. Our next profile will be on the myth of climbing the ladder through "hard work."

Understanding Workplace Politics
13 Opinion