What are Office Politics?
The Christian worker cannot afford to ignore office politics. Scripture tells us to stay alert, be as cunning as snakes yet inoffensive as doves (Matthew 10:16). In the case of office politics, this means understanding what they are and knowing how to succeed in spite of them. Here are several warning signs to help you spot office politics.
• Backbiting, gossip and rumors about co-workers and bosses in an effort to get ahead or one-upmanship (Proverbs 16:28).
• Workplace bullying, put downs, sarcasm and other manipulative behavior shown to workers who make mistakes (Romans 12:28-32).
• Differing self-interests that trap workers in the hidden agendas of unscrupulous team members who use unethical influence (Proverbs 18:1).
• Cliques and irrational colleagues including office favorites (co-workers who are given preferential treatment) who exclude others or demonstrate prejudicial behavior (Proverbs 14:21).
• Envy, greed and covetousness-never satisfied with what they have (Ecclesiastes 4:4).
These are only a few well-known indicators. To further assess the impact of office politics in your workplace, increase your awareness of how the company works, who has informal power and clout, and the unwritten rules that permeate your office culture.
How to Manage Office Politics
The best source for Christian advice on how to manage office politics is the Bible. God’s Word is full of concrete advice on treating others with kindness, gentleness and respect (Matthew 22:39; Galatians 5:13-16). Listed below are some general strategies referenced in the Bible that you can use when encountering office politics in your workplace.
Treat Everyone with Respect Regardless of Level
There is no acceptable excuse for rudeness and hostility when dealing with others. Even when provoked, you should maintain a standard of professionalism in your work unit by displaying poise and exhibiting an attitude that engenders trust and support whether the person is a boss or co-worker. Do not seek revenge by putting down co-workers to look good yourself (1 Peter 2:17).
Develop a Reputation for Excellence
Do your best work and demonstrate how well you perform tasks and responsibilities. Find new and different ways to surpass performance expectations and job requirements. Follow the orders of bosses and leaders; but refuse to violate Christian ethics and values even if it means losing your job (Colossians 3:22-4).
Keep Confidential Information Private and Do Not Disclose Company Secrets
If you are a leader, foster a work environment in your unit that freely and openly shares non-confidential information by rewarding people for sharing what they know, even if it’s perceived as bad news (Proverbs 11:13; 14:28).
Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt
To give a person the benefit of the doubt is to believe something good about him, rather than something bad, eventhough you may not have enough information about the person to do so. Do not criticize your boss in public or vent about her to co-workers. Never go over her head to complain or you may lose credibility in senior management’s eyes. Manage conflict and disagreements as they occur on a one-to-one basis (Romans 2:1; James 1:19).
Office politics are part of the normal ebb and flow of work. No matter where you work, you cannot escape them. They exist even in Christian organizations and churches, for the common denominator is people. Wherever there are differences in beliefs, thought, approach and style, you will find office politics. The point is not to ignore or avoid them, but to deal with them in a Godly fashion.