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When we hear the word politics, dirty, unscrupulous, under-the-table dealings often come to mind. Politics comprises of activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization. It’s easy to how this applies to workplace politics.

Politics or power play is very common wherever there is a hierarchy, which makes it very common in the workplace. This is often demonstrated when employees aspire to achieve something beyond their authority and control. They attempt to live up to these aspirations by forming relationships with those who have greater power and authority than themselves.

In doing so, their visibility increases and their hard work may be noticed more than usual. Since other employees may not see the work these individuals puts in, they may perceive this behaviour as simply cultivating favouritism amongst superiors. Workplace politics is essentially a manifestation of power dynamics among co-workers in an organization. Every employee naturally attempts to make progress in their career; their success often depends on how well they navigate and leverage their power within the status quo.

Dealing with political behaviour at the workplace, both positive and negative, can weigh on employees mental health. One of the major aspects of an individual that is affected is their self-esteem. When an individual is unable to navigate their office politics and is thus not making progress in their career despite putting in a lot of hard work, they may begin to doubt themselves. This can affect the quality of their work, their confidence and their self-worth.

Some employees may experience anger and frustration seeing less experienced co-workers chosen for promotions over them, simply because their work was noticed more. This can be exhausting for a person’s mental resources, and they may develop a short temper and display extreme bursts of anger if their frustration continues to build without release.

Another common effect of prolonged workplace politics is demotivation. Employees may often feel as though there is no point in putting in the work if they are not going to be recognized for it. This could potentially result in a decrease in their performance and may cause them to quit in extreme cases.

People spend over a third of their day at the office, so building healthy relationships and forming a support system at the office is very important to their mental health. Having this support system can also help cope with office politics. When experiencing intense stress due to the power plays at the office, counselling can help. Counselling can give people deeper insights into the motives behind human behaviour, allowing them to be more rational in their responses. It can also help them develop a more stable sense of self, which will prevent them from feeling demotivated if they are having trouble navigating the political landscape at their workplace.

Office politics is an issue that unfortunately affects most of the working class. In fact, a third of the workers dread going to work because of this toxic establishment. The referred publication1 has a case study that takes us through the journey of a man in his mid-thirties, as he adapts to the challenges, he faces due to office politics at his new job. The book circles around how counselling helps him deal with his struggles and also includes self-help tips that give the readers effective ways to not only survive but also thrive at their respective workplaces. From making friends to building strong connections and knowing your goals and actively working towards achieving them as well as respecting yourself as much as you respect others are only some of the many ways the author writes out of the professional experience.

[1] “Stress Diaries: From the Eyes of a Therapist” available at Amazon online, Kindle edition

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies

By Dr Rachna Khanna Singh

Dr Rachna Khanna Singh, the Senior Fellow with DRaS is a Mental Wellness Expert, a TEDx Talk speaker, focused on Relationship, Lifestyle & Stress Management. She heads the Department of Holistic Medicine & Wellness at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon and the Founder and Director of The Mind & Wellness Studio, Delhi & NGO ‘Serve Samman’. Dr Rachna is a visiting lecturer and faculty member of various esteemed educational institutes worldwide such as IIM, IIT, BITS PILANI, Delhi University, NMIMS, Amity University, Himachal Medical Colleges, University of Exeter, University of Minnesota, Royal College of Physicians, etc.