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Office politics and how to deal with it

Politics is everywhere - and switching off the shenanigans in Canberra won't help.

Whether it's the home, the workplace or the trendy bar on a Saturday night, politics is a fact of life.  Not participating in politics in all of these spheres is itself a political act.

Office politics is an important factor in all careers - but beware, there are many traps for young players.

While you don't have to be a modern-day Machiavelli, it helps to be understand the environment you are working in and the forces at work, especially the power dynamics in the office.

Whether in a small office or a multinational, there will be office gossip or situations where it is politic to step around egos or "toe the party line".  There will also be certain personality types and those you "gel" with, or possibly not.

The key to survival and sanity is to focus on "the work" and the objectives of the organisation while taking care of yourself and achieving your own career objectives.  Much of this effort will require sound negotiation skills.

Authors Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Paton set down a number of key principles for effective negotiation.  They include: separating the people from the problem; focusing on interests rather than positions; generating a wide variety of options on the road to an agreement; and insisting that the agreement be based on objective criteria.

Also avoid becoming too involved in political situations, while working to help find the solutions people are seeking.  Negative persons, for example, can be tackled holding up the mirror and asking "how would you address the issue".

Emotions need to be kept in check at all times and continual reference must be made to the company's culture and values.

For company management, a key issue is leadership - in setting down and monitoring the cultural values of the firm and ensuring that disagreements are manifested as creative tension rather than destructive infighting and factionalism.

It may not be Question Time in Canberra, but getting the politics right is important for both the corporate leader and the employee.

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