It’s certain that in the past few years, everyone had to adapt to major changes at a rapid pace. One of the biggest changes that happened was the long-running quarantine due to the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak.
Companies had to migrate to online platforms, and employees had to get used to remote work. This not only changed the internal operations of companies and the personal lives of the employees but also affected office politics.
What is Office Politics?
Office politics (also known as workplace politics or organizational politics) is the behavior in human interactions that involves power and authority. It is a tool to assess operational capacity, and also balance diversity in the office.
The bigger your company is, the more likely it is that you have to master the murky waters of office politics. Experts have spent years trying to find the underlying driving forces of formal and informal power dynamics in organizations, resulting in what we know today as office politics.
These dynamics affect employers and employees, and the bigger the company is, the more attention office politics requires in order to keep peace in the office.
But once you remove the office, what remains? Although remote working was not unheard of even before the pandemic, this extreme change has eliminated the office entirely. This also eliminates personal contact and physical human interaction, which the science of office politics relies on.
Office politics leaned heavily on the negative happenings in an office environment, including manipulation, and the abuse of certain power dynamics. It also involves discrimination and bias. Basically, office politics is what can make a certain position feel like a toxic job..
But without the office, how can people engage in these tactics? And more importantly, what does a business owner have to look out for when the office is taken out of the picture.
Can it be that with the elimination of the office environment, we can successfully put the dark side of human behavior past us and focus on our actual job performance? Most people think this is a cute, but naive idea. Because the same way that the company culture prevails in online platforms, so does office politics.
But because of this huge change, there are certain opportunities that emerged from this that company owners should take advantage of.
Office Politics & Remote Work
The first opportunity that arose from remote work is the ability to reset relationships. This is thanks to the change in communication. Almost all of our communication patterns shifted when moving to online platforms, meaning it can be used as a clean slate.
You have the ability to redefine accountability and set new expectations from your employees. This includes the amount of communication you require, the way you will monitor their work, and so on. This can create a new dynamic between employer and employee, and perhaps even foster a more productive work environment, because of the strict expectations.
Socially, remote work eliminates the ability to prioritize personal relationships in the office. Furthermore, the connection employees will have with their peers will be much more work-oriented, and all personal communication will be much more authentic.
Remote work is also a great stepping stone toward a more internationally accepting company structure. These days a lot of companies are international, but this comes with a lot of negative bias and prejudice.
Remote work not only encourages the recruitment of internationally located employees, but also encourages the elimination of bias amongst employees, and possibly even employers. This new way of working can help us connect with people who are not only physically far from us, but also psychologically more diverse.
But just as this change brings new opportunities, it also has its setbacks. The most crucial being that working from home means that colleagues have fewer opportunities to settle differences and resolve conflicts. This can lead to an excess build-up of frustration and conflicts.
Additionally, nuances like nonverbal cues in communication are completely lost over phone calls and chat messages.
Office politics were never about the fun and happy face of the office environment. And just as in a physical office, you also need to pay attention to these nasty tactics and conflicts in the virtual office as well.
How to Deal With Office Politics Remotely
Now that you’re prepared to take advantage of new opportunities and keep all the nasty bits at bay, here are some helpful tips on how to do exactly that.
First and foremost, you must be able to identify the type of conflict present in your organization. It is important to know how to differentiate work conflicts and relationship conflicts, as they all have different approaches.
Task-related conflicts are easier to resolve, as these are all internally a part of your business, and you have control of all elements. Personal issues are harder to resolve, and sometimes even to identify. For example, repeated task conflicts with the same grouping of people can translate to underlying personal conflicts as well.
You can also make use of the arsenal of technological tools you have in your remote office environment. For example, having an online log helps build transparency, and therefore trust. These tools can help monitor work processes, and can also make surveying easier, so take advantage of that!
Lastly, it’s very important to keep boundaries. Encourage employees to keep their personal boundaries intact both in their home and in their business affairs. Also, show them that you as well respect these boundaries, by helping them separate their home life and work life.
Allow them to have small breaks, personal time, and don’t expect overtime just because they’re working from home.
Office politics can be hard to navigate even without additional challenges. But if you’re able to recognize the positive and negative aspects of this change, and if you can pick out what to leave and what to take, it’s surprisingly easy to adapt to this change over time.
Author Bio – Russell Ridgeway is an American writer based in Budapest, Hungary. He works for Lensa and creates freelance content in the business, tech, and fashion industries. He also writes creative fiction. You can reach him by email (email@example.com), or on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.