What are office politics?


I am Autistic and a paper that I am working on involves a “political mindset” to solve a problem. I am seeing ways to survive office politics but I am not sure ultimately what it is. Please help.

In: 34

It is basically just a term that refers to all of the interactions between people in the office and how those interactions relate to work.

For instance, if you have a boss that doesn’t like you and that balls keeps giving you bad assignments, that is office politics. And if you responded by trying to get on that boss’ good side, that would also be office politics.

“Office politics” general refers to power struggles among managers and executives with conflicting opinions of what should happen.

Generally, in such situations employees are either forced to take a side and agree with one person or the other, or are forced to stay in the middle and tell both sides their views are valid.

Here’s an example from a job I worked. There’s my team, and then there’s the team that handles the tech end of the operations department.

Despite there being fault on both sides, any issue that caused a delay in operations almost always came down to that team blaming my team and my team blaming that team. For someone on either team to publicly agree with the opposite team’s view meant that their management would be unhappy with them, which would impact the projects they were given and any raises/promotions that they’d expect.

Surviving these office politics were often a matter of publicly agreeing with your team and then privately expressing to your team that we could do X, Y, or Z differently “in order to prove that the issue really is on their team,” while solving whatever issue was our fault.

Keep in mind that there are formal and informal power structures at a workplace. Formal power structures are obviously bosses, etc.

Having people higher up on the food chain who like you and/or highly value your work can be a huge benefit — if there is a problem, they may vouch for you; if you have an idea, they can promote it for you; if you have a complaint, they can elevate it to people even higher up in the company for you.

But there are also people who have more power than their formal position would suggest. A good example is executive assistants / secretaries. Or people who have been at the company a really really long time. Getting on their good side can make your life a lot easier.

And some people have a lot of power not because of their actual position in the company, but because a lot of people (or the RIGHT people) like them. How toxic this dynamic is depends on the personalities of people in the office.

Office politics is understanding there these different points of power, and navigating between then.

However, it is also important to play to your strengths. Some companies have way less office politics than others. And in many companies, just doing good work and being pleasant is enough to create and maintain a healthy and profitable work environment for yourself.

Office politics is just the shifting and dynamic social relationships which lie on top of what the “org chart” and “process diagrams” say is the structure and process of the office. It’s quite complex, even for somebody who isn’t autistic – people individually bring a lot of strange psycho-social and power dynamic quirks to the office, and when those interact in an environment like an office where peoples’ real monetary and status ambitions clash, the result can be pretty chaotic.

Office Politics is personal biases and opinions interfering with the “ideal” operation of a business (rather than purely being based on what choices are best, most efficient, etc).

It can be a manager giving the best roles to their favorite worker, or giving undesirable roles to their least favorite.

It can be an assistant scheduling your meetings at undesirable times.

It can be an equal coworker badmouthing your work to other coworkers.