How to Help Clients Turn Office Politics into Positive Outcomes
By Lori Jazvac.
Your client has recently landed a new customer service role after you created a stellar résumé portfolio and provided career coaching. She established a nice rapport with the employer at the interview and is now eager to start her new job. She’s full of enthusiasm, excitement, and optimism.
A few days pass, and then weeks.
Your client, slowly and reluctantly, begins to notice that the job and the company fail to align with claims the employer made during the interview – claims that this was an 8-to-4 office job offering interesting work and reasonable flexibility in a supportive team environment.
In fact, this job is a 24/7 project. Pressures are mounting from all departments without any support being provided by the rest of the team. Customer complaints are being relegated solely to your client who is doing her best to resolve them. The company seems to have only a vague idea about team collaboration, ethics, and integrity, even though these values are highlighted in the employee manual.
Meanwhile, the chatter around the water cooler reveals that the team expects the new hire to take on additional tasks – even work overtime – without extra pay. The employer suddenly changes his attitude towards your client. One of your client’s “trusted” colleagues informs her of recent feedback from their manager: “Well, the new employee seems to be experiencing some challenges, but we’ll see how it goes.” The colleague then tells your client that he would be happy to “take over, in case things get out of hand.”
So, what just happened?
In a nutshell – office politics.
What exactly is office politics?
Wikipedia defines office politics as “the process and behavior in human interactions involving power and authority. Influence by individuals may serve personal interests without regard to their effect on the organization itself.”
The Guardian states that an estimated 75% of employees complain that their boss represents the most stressful part of their job and 33% of employees dislike going to work because of their colleagues.
Office politics often fuels a toxic work culture resulting in high absenteeism, low morale, and declining productivity levels – not to mention feelings of resentment and isolation in some employees. Its impact can derail self-esteem, lessen quality of life, and hinder personal goals and dreams for many workers.
But here’s the flip side: while office politics exist in many organizations, career practitioners can help. We can support our clients to become more empowered in their work environments with these helpful strategies:
- Compassionately support the client in his or her work experiences. Listen and gather all the facts in order to make an objective assessment.
- Encourage the client to record all relevant occurrences and incidents in a Critical Incident Log. Help the client evaluate the situation, their feelings, and how the situation impacts their performance and morale. This can help identify patterns of behaviour and root causes of problems – even potential solutions.
- Support the client in clearly observing the situation and seeing it from a fresh perspective. Suggest that the client acquire 360-degree feedback.
- Motivate your client to consistently document all accomplishments in a Career Milestones Log. This will boost your client’s confidence, protect his or her reputation, and provide evidence of accomplishments and tangible results.
- Champion your client to leverage assertiveness. Developing this marketable skill is helpful in navigating challenging situations.
- Inspire your client to promote a collaborative work culture. To achieve this, your client should positively reinforce others, respect individual and team strengths, support goal attainment, reward team efforts, and be kind and empathetic to co-workers.
How can you help your client transform office politics into positives? Coach your client to:
- Drive a no-tolerance policy for disrespect, bullying, gossip, or negativity at work. Champion an anti-bullying training program, promote an employee satisfaction committee, enforce policy compliance, or suggest employee appreciation days.
- Utilize emotional intelligence (EI). Manage conflicts versus taking sides while remaining open, positive, and neutral. Your client’s manager will appreciate a mature professional with a high EI quotient – someone capable of handling tough situations.
- Exercise choice in attitudes and behaviours to better handle situations. Evaluate options. Remain proactive vs. reactive in order to make sound decisions.
- Leverage strengths. Disengage from petty differences. Stay focused and accountable in achieving strategic business goals.
- Adopt a win-win approach. Often, compromise wins the day. Other times, silence is golden, and, on some occasions, agreeing to disagree is best.
- Arrange a meeting with the employer to clarify expectations and goals, discuss relevant issues and success strategies, and obtain constructive feedback concerning performance.
- Build relationships with optimistic and empowering colleagues who are positive role models and influencers. Acting together, such a group may succeed in turning around, or – at the very least – neutralizing, the toxic behaviour of others.
For most people, encountering disagreeable co-workers, demanding bosses, unsatisfied clients, and rigid corporate policies is inevitable. However, we can inspire our clients to effectively manage office politics in order to create positive changes in workplace culture.
If you’d like to be fully prepared to help your clients handle tough work situations, earn your Certified Career Strategist (CCS) credential via CPC’s online training course.