Managing Office Politics in a God-honoring Way

Here’s an understatement for you: office politics sucks.

The reason its’ an unpleasant experience is because we experience it before we think about it. We often can’t explain the particulars of our situation, but we know our emotions are swirling and we sure would like to let someone know about it.

Office politics is nearly always the result of unresolved conflict. Officee politics can have a number of detrimental effects, including:

  • hijacking critical organizational processes
  • making simple tasks complex and tedious processes ineffective
  • sapping people of their energy and optimism
  • wastes organization cycles
  • Creates an environment that contributes to work-related stress and burnout

Some people do not survive in certain situations because of their inability to navigate office politics in spite of being talented, hard-working and having the best of intentions. The costs to the organization can be significant. Typical events that we would often label as “office politics” includes the following:

  • When you’re angry about a decision that affects you
  • When you need to make critical comments in a public forum
  • When a colleague goes postal on you
  • Have a boos who is a control freak
  • Caught in the middle of family conflict in a family business
  • Gossip as a way to vent frustrations, get ahead or bond with their co-workers

When these (and other) situations arise, how do we handle ourselves in a God honoring way – especially if we’re a Christian business owner?

  1. You pray and ensure that you’re not acting in sin and that your attitudes are right before the Lord: check yourself first before you ever think about judging or giving a critique of another individual. First and foremost – we must be acting in righteousness and integrity.
  2. Resolve conflict where you can: to the extent you can be a peacemaker – do so. But realize that you can’t resolve a conflict that exists between two other people. When you’re triangulated into a conflictual situation, know your limits and know what you can and can’t do. If you’re not contributing to the resolution of the conflict, then you’re likely making things worse – even if all you’re doing is listening.
  3. Focus on managing yourself in highly political events: control your emotions and pray – a lot! Get God’s perspective on the situation and point people to Him. Don’t engage their irrational thinking and don’t encourage their emotionally-driven but obviously incorrect assessments or ideas.
  4. Don’t listen to gossip and don’t engage in it: gossip is sin. There is a fine line between listening to someone express their emotions and letting them damage your relationship between yourself and the person with whom they are having a conflict. You need to detach just a bit and ensure that you don’t say anything that would show disrespect, distain or a change in your attitude about the third person in the triangle. Guard their reputation – this is what Christians do.
  5. Keep a neutral stance in which you’re ready to help any way you can and you purposefully love everyone equally: don’t contribute to the problem. Either add value or extract yourself from the situation
  6. Be willing to lose your job in order to not sin – don’t lie, don’t support or encourage sin and so forth: this is obvious – stay above the fray and don’t get sucked into the muck and mire of the misery. If you can’t do this, ask the Lord about securing other employment.

If you’re a Christian business owner, be on the look-out for conflict in your organization and ensure it is nipped quickly before it injures your company. If you don’t do this, you’ll find people treating you poorly at times and you won’t know why. You may find people suddenly quitting and it won’t make sense to you.

An entire book could be written on office politics. I hope this post at least stirs your thinking and helps you manage office politics a bit better.

Bill English



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