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Turning 'Office Politics' around - a real case study

"When I met Joanna I was in a tough spot, trying to navigate my way through some difficult political situations within my team and what felt like a very toxic environment. 

After an initial conversation, I felt like Joanna would be able to help guide me through the next few months, so I signed up for a 7-session programme. 

Joanna got straight to the point, understanding the environment I was in, all the different characters I was dealing with, and she started to help me unpick where the issues were.  

We spent a lot of time working out what the problems really were, the direct conversations I needed to have, and also getting me to see things from a different perspective.  

The political intelligence Joanna helped me develop allowed me to realise that others may not see me the same way that I see myself, and vice versa.  I can honestly say that 7 sessions later, I am a different person.

 I feel so much more confident in myself and my abilities, and often stop to think about how something may be perceived or viewed by my team."

For many of my clients, people at the top of their game professionally, ‘Office Politics’ can sour what should be a good time for them.

I've written a lot about how to navigate ‘Office Politics’ and turning 'Office Politics' around - see the end of this post for links to a key article. Today, I want to focus on the most important aspect of this transformation: unpicking it all.

The starting point: analysis

This requires a detailed analysis of yourself and the people involved in the challenging work situation. I gather a lot of information from my clients and also ask a lot of questions to distil the root of the challenges. At this stage, I’m fundamentally trying to establish:

  • Who the other key individuals are in the situation.

  • The current status of the key relationships, both with regard to my client and other key people.

  • How my client is perceived.

  • The organisational dynamics, culture and recent history that have contributed to the current situation.

  • The personal dynamics of individuals.

To help you see what this can look like, here’s a summary of the challenges my client in the above case study faced:

  • The previous team leader had been absent for a lot of time and had also spoken negatively to the team my client was now managing about the company and other people.

  • The team had got used to communicating with the next level up, in the absence of the team leader.

  • My client had been promoted from amongst her peers.

  • The individuals in the team had some particular ways of needing to be dealt with and developed – as most people do.

Developing your strategies

After distilling the key challenges fully, we develop very specific strategies to turn this around. So for this client, there were several key elements to work on over a few months.

Fundamentally, my client’s key task was to build trust with her team, as well as demonstrate her capability for the role and for leadership.

This meant working on the specifics of how she:

  • dealt with each individual

  • managed upwards to get the support of her boss

  • developed a vision for the team and got their buy in on it.

Turning 'Office Politics' around

Ultimately, we can’t change others except by changing ourselves and my client took on that responsibility.

Session by session, my client left with specific actions to trial; whilst doing this she would observe further elements which improved her understanding of what was really going on.

Therefore, at our following session together, we would discuss what had happened since we last met, including her additional observations and the outcome of trying the actions we’d agreed. This is really key to get clients to where they want to be and overcome their challenges; continually practising new more positive behaviour so that it becomes more normal. My role is to provide guidance, insight and accountability so progress gets made, which with my clients, it always does and they turn the situation around.

Never ignore ‘Office Politics’

‘Office Politics’ can be very challenging. However, it’s not an area to ignore if you want to progress. I firmly believe learning new and relevant skills in the context of a real-life situation is the most powerful way to not only improve the current situation but to learn life-long career skills; and my clients agree.

Read more on this important topic: 'Office Politics'.

If you want to tackle your challenges with ‘Office Politics’ and look at turning 'Office Politics' around, contact me for a complimentary 30 minute Career Booster conversation.