Workplace politics and the millenials

By: Angela Castor

WE’VE seen or heard it before – your boss hands over the promotion to a favored employee despite mediocre performance, someone else gets credit for the work you’ve been tirelessly working on for the past year, an opportunity was given to a co-worker instead of you because the management felt that it’s not your time yet, or your officemate spreads rumors in the workplace to discredit his colleague. Whether the scale tips against you or in your favor, getting caught up with office politics is inevitable.

In an HBR Ascend survey, 39% of Millennials identified Office Politics as the second major barrier to performing more effectively in the workplace, citing “excessive workload” as the biggest downer. Generally, millennials have a negative connotation when it comes to politics in the workplace and as much as possible, avoid getting involved in such things. However, factors like generation gap, cultural differences, and personality preferences come to play which seem to be inescapable. It is almost rare to see an Executive put his trust in the younger generation and actually let them take the reign in managing an organization, as most of them would perceive millennials as inexperienced, demanding and entitled. Such a preconceived notion already exists that even before the selection process starts, the boss has already decided on who he wants or doesn’t want to promote. What organizations are failing to realize, is that Millennials look up to the older generation for guidance and mentorship, rather than edging them out of the corporate ladder. They thrive in a collaborative work environment where they are heard and their contributions valued. It’s easy to misunderstand and subject them into office politics, their straightforward manner may be misinterpreted as cockiness- they know what they want to be and would like to achieve that they don’t need to play political games.

While office politics is somewhat a taboo word, it can be used to one’s advantage without playing dirty. Millennials should know that in every work they are in, it will always be political to some extent since people are not just bringing with them their skills- they are also bringing to the table their principles, beliefs, emotions, and insecurities that in order to survive and grow, one must understand the organization’s dynamic of power and influence. Establishing relationships and connecting with the right people is especially important in industries likes Sales, Marketing and Business Development where building high-quality connections is critical for the job. Politics is essentially about people, that’s why people with strong interpersonal skills are more likely to adapt and harness to their advantage the nuisance of politics.

Nevertheless, whether one chooses to be an active or passive player in office politics, what is important for people in the organization, is to establish a safe space where all can work harmoniously towards one goal, and create a culture of openness and inclusivity regardless of differences and generation gap.

Angela Castor is the Sales Manager of FutureSmart Resources + Strategies Inc., an Asean company committed to bridge gaps through technological innovation and data-driven strategies. She is also a former market researcher and brand marketer in one of the biggest research firms in the country and financial service industry, respectively.