Dealing with Office Politics

April 18, 2015

Most of our productive time in our life span we spend in office. In fact it is the most important phase of our life since we have to earn bread for self and family. Sadly most of us don’t have happiness at work place. We encounter politics, which not only puts us down at work place but also destroys peaceful family life. Because we haven’t learned how to keep office at the doorstep when we enter home. Easy to say but difficult to practice. 

85% of the people working in the Middle East experience and complain of office politics. I have worked in MNCs in India as well as across Middle East. I have experienced it. Every one of us experiences this one day or the other .There is a lot of difference in office politics we experience in Middle East and in India. In Middle East conditions it is difficult to escape due legal bindings of the immigration laws (employment ban system). Even one wish to escape makes it difficult to do so. It is more than just office politics, it is virtually blackmailing from seniors using laws. Many of us suffer a lot looking at family and their needs back home.

Who indulges in these types of activities? Why do they do that? What do they want? We will discuss a few things over here. I have noticed one important point - whoever approaches me for counselling for whatever problem they face and talk about, definitely difficulties at office is an integral part of their problem. Being also born and brought up in the same environment, we lack harmony at home. So we can’t expect our office place to be a perfect one because we come there from different walks of life with different beliefs, traditions, education and religious backgrounds.

Generally we encounter problems because we don’t have or try to get enough insights about the problem itself. So at times small things become magnified and we feel desperate unnecessarily. The first thing to do when we encounter any problem is, to study the nature of the problem thoroughly. In this scenario that has to start with studying person’s profile who is dominating and troubling you. Most of those people I have seen are only kids to their parents (or only male or female among other kids pampered from childhood). They haven’t been taught how to share love and respect others. They always received it. These people always carry a high level of superior complex over others. What they know and do is right! Highly egoistic and narcistic in nature.

One of the big mistakes we commit is to put a full stop to further qualification once we are employed. We end up with average necessary qualification to get employment and stop there. Knowledge is the best weapon to deal and beat anything. We give various reasons to stop it. We do not even try to have necessary additional qualification to get internal promotions or to go out and take up a new challenge. That is why at the end of the day it is our laziness that lands us in all sorts of troubles. A determined mind can achieve anything. Age is not a criteria. Try to go up one step further than your troublesome boss. The best way to beat them is to gain more qualification and efficiency than they have.

Having an additional talent is always very useful in these types of scenarios. Find out what is hidden inside you. Bring it out, nurture and use it on daily basis and see the difference. Have an impact in office. Stand out differently with your own trade mark .For Eg-- If you have writing qualities / singing ability/ if you can play music instrument / if you are a good speaker etc don’t hide those good qualities. Bring it to the front at least in your own domain. These qualities will generate you enough recognition and respect at the work place.

Don’t keep distance from your troublesome boss’s superiors. In some pretence try to communicate with them. Generally we don’t do this for fear of inviting more wrath from our troubling boss. This move will help in keeping a check on your immediate boss. The other mistake we do is keeping away from groups. Be a member of the group which is against your boss. Sometimes diplomacy won’t work but a similar weapon works.

In a majority of the organisations HR department is not active. Their only role is salary distribution. What human resource management they do is a big question. Wherever HR is active you may bring issues to their notice. I successfully did this once in Middle East when I was working for a Dutch company. This may be used only when you know that HR is active and they listen to you and they have a set agenda to deal with problems like this. Or else your problems may escalate further. It is really sad to notice that majority of the office setups don’t have any agenda to deal with this contagious issue; hence most of the quality office time and manpower goes waste and unproductive.

Study the office environment well. Do your own appraisal. See what you should have and lack. Don’t be parasitic on others at office. Be efficient enough to do your job in time and independently. Use your resources wisely to cover up any drawbacks. You will be bullied more if you are parasitic. Be creative and always have innovative ideas to finish a job or meet a deadline.

Sometimes love can make wonders. It is not that we should always deal firmly with negative elements. Pouring love over hatred may bring out the best results the way base neutralises the acid. Connection at the family level may help reduce this menace. Visiting your boss’s house with your family members at times especially with kids could be helpful.

Communicating directly with the troublemaker may also help. Trying to find out from him why he does what he does actually may help you get some insight. Most of the times they too are under severe stress from their superiors for results which they force on us. Immaturity plays a big role over here. Most of the managers don’t know how to communicate with their subordinate. They just show their authority and enforce on others their ideas. Generally these types of people are weak in nature. They don’t possess strong personality traits and often are poor leaders. Remember, only weak people indulge in this type of activities. A strong person with admirable personality traits never behaves like this; instead he will lead by example. Here the catch is that the person who involves in dirty politics is weak and hence breakable with our efficiency. So at times it is our lack of efficiency that makes us suffer discomfort at work place. So before complaining check where you stand.

There is one more category of bosses. Don’t be surprised. Some bosses are fearful of their subordinates. It is because once they notice that their subordinate is efficient and can deliver anything; they want to keep them in check fearing their own position in the company. Such people play big level games and don’t take rest until you exit.

The most efficient way to establish harmony at work place is to have a set agenda against practicing politics in office. Everyone’s goal is same there, to earn bread and butter for the family. Top management has to initiate this and set an agenda that sets up and looks after a cordial office environment. It is because at the end of the day it is the organisation that's going to pay for some person’s immaturity. Unfortunately what happens in most of the organisations is when they meet a specific set profit margins they feel that everything is going smoothly. So the top management doesn't go to the root level and establish contact with ordinary work force. What they don’t understand is if they had done something seriously to contain office politics or any other issue related to human factor, the productivity would have gone up resulting in more profits than what the organisation is getting at present.

People who are the victim of this discomfort should know how to control their stress levels and emotions. They should learn how to leave office stress as they exit from office and enter the home cheerfully. Try to identify certain areas that you can control; it is not that everything is against you. Define an action plan to increase your happiness at work in the short and long term. Prepare a list of activities that gives you happiness. Physical activities like playing outdoor and indoor help reduce stress. Playing with kids is a great source of inspiration. Spending leisure time usefully also helps a lot (In Muscat every Friday at least one hour I spend in an Autism centre talking with Autistic children’s parents). Quitting is the very last option and certainly is not the right choice. It is because this disease is everywhere and you can’t be sure where you land up in the future.

All of us know the benefits of first impression. Your first few days of presentation at your new work place can make or break your rest of the days there. Be confident and charming from day one. Do a proper self appraisal; redefine your appearance, behavioural patterns and communication (ABC of image building) and make your enemy work hard to defeat you at work place!

The other possible solution or a slight relief could be breaking the glass ceiling (empowering women in office environment). There are hardly any women managers even now in many organisations including in highly developed countries.

The time has come to restructure and redefine the role of HR department in a proper way. For any organisation the most valuable resource is human resource, not the machines. The primary role of the HR management should be to improve human productivity by increasing knowledge, skills and motivation of the work force. The organisation can’t grow just by recruiting people and distributing salary. Unfortunately in most of the organisations this is the only HR activity. A survey states that 75% of the people move from any company in private sector, the primary reason is office politics, not for additional benefits!! When there is no stability in the work force the organisation is going to suffer and progress will be limited.

Unfortunately there are no laws to deal with this menace. Surprisingly most of the organisations also don’t have any clear cut agenda or no agenda at all to deal with this problem even though it is the organisation that's going to suffer.

Before concluding I would like to share an important thing that I often observe and I am quite surprised about. Some people want to live with problems and having a problem (or perceiving so) itself is their comfort zone!! They are addicted to worrying and complaining. This attitude they do not give up easily because they want to gain sympathy. Such people keep on complaining and do not come up in life because they do not move toward any resolution.

Dear readers, to deal with any problem effectively, arm yourself with knowledge.


Vincent D'Sa Archives:
By Vincent D'Sa, Shankerpura/Muscat
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Comment on this article


    Sun, May 03 2015

    Your article is realistic and superb . Its true we all face this problems. Hope you will write more on such realistic topics .

  • Prescilla fernandes, Mangalore

    Fri, Apr 24 2015

    very good article. worth reading, specially the freshers who cant withstand change of environment (from home to office) should read this article. One should learn to withstand the obstacles at workplace rather than running away from situation.

  • Regi, Katapadi

    Wed, Apr 22 2015

    Nice article vincy. I am working in dubai last 20 years. I have seen similar situation as written above. Main reason for this is lot of nationalities people living in gulf with job uncertainty. People think that to grow fast politics is the tool

  • jamil ahmed, udupi/Qatar

    Wed, Apr 22 2015

    It is a common phenomenon this is observed. ALL I can suggest is bow down your head, keep working, and keep occupied all the time try to maintain low profile all the time.. No one can touch unless we know our responsibilities well. This will last only for few months until one settles down to work. One has to face this hurdle especially understanding the working atmosphere.

  • Santosh B V, Mangalore

    Tue, Apr 21 2015

    Overall the writer has covered the subject well. My personal observations in the context of people working in the Middle East is that the Local bosses or the Western Expat bosses are generally focussed on getting results, for them the "Bottom line" on the balance sheet at the end of the year is what matters, not petty office politics. My personal expereince is that dirty politics among Indians is mostly relatd to community and state (Would particularly like to mention that the Keralites are the worst offenders, as for them it is survival in an alien culture, to this end they prefer their own clan beleving that might is right),apart from this, other arabs also contribute to dirty office politcs as again it is a question of their survival. That being said, the writer has correctly said that qualifcatiosn and thorough job knowledge helps in ovecoming office politics, besides an unblemished personal life and ethics are important in having a head start.

  • Bryan, Bahrain

    Tue, Apr 21 2015

    I have been working for the same organization for 23years by being Aggressive, because if you give a finger, then they want our whole hand not locals but MALLUS. But it Is best to be polite at the same time treat everyone with respect. I like the last line, Dear readers, to deal with any problem effectively, arm yourself with knowledge...It is true, nobody can do nothing to you...

  • sudhi, byndoor

    Mon, Apr 20 2015

    I am well experienced and victim of office politics. I have learnt from my previous companies that being too polite with others most of the times goes against us. We must be as much possible make them guessing about what we are. Because with aggressive people most of will be scared to make any comments as it may back fire them.

  • Priyanka Dsouza , Pangla/Bangalore

    Mon, Apr 20 2015

    Nice article uncle Vincy. Keep writing more!! Enjoyed reading the whole article 😊

  • Sanvy, Puttur/Dubai

    Mon, Apr 20 2015

    It is rightly said above that most dominating bosses are only child to their parents. Last decade there was double income double kids formula among couples. Then later came double income single child. Now present generation couples are moving towards double income no kids formula.

  • John DSouza, Mangaluru

    Sun, Apr 19 2015

    Thanks Vincy Sir for your valuable guidelines to deal with office politics.
    As we determine to be the employees (servants) in office, we cannot put out the office politics.
    Being survival of the fittest is the rule, either we need to have the courage to fight the odds or must join the office politicians to continue.
    Kitchen is always hot. If we are cool then we can face the heat. If strong we can fight the heat. And if we can't bear the heat, the option is to get out of the kitchen and look for survival outside, Which is more risky.
    Actually becoming boss and running the office is more painful than facing office politics.
    If so talented and efficient, it is foolishness to continue on the safe chair, expecting honour, but actually facing humiliation and put downs.

  • samy, brahmavar

    Sat, Apr 18 2015

    Thank you for writing such an insightful article. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. I could relate some of what you said at my work. The best way to deal with difficult boss is to arm our self with more knowledge and doing more than boss could do.
    Keep writing more!

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