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Four rules to live by if you're dealing with office politics

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Office politics are the quickest way to kill productivity.

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Take a happy, high-functioning team and throw in a dash of favoritism, trash talk, and secrecy, and you have the perfect recipe for disaster in which even the best performers can lose confidence, and engagement can rapidly dip.

Office politics are bound to arise, so to ensure you are able to navigate them without losing your cool, keep these four rules in mind:

Identify the source, assess the toxicity level, and forecast its timeline

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have these politics been in place for some time, or are they new?
  • Do you expect them to be short-lived, or long-lasting?
  • Does the issue surround a specific project, team, or policy that’s likely to soon change?
  • Or is the problem related to a single person who’s shown no signs of leaving the team?

Your approach to handling the situation will depend on what the source of trouble is and how long you foresee it lasting. For instance, if a new boss has been brought in and created an unhealthy culture of favoritism on your team, you may find yourself in need of an exit strategy, and fast. But if the particular issue surrounds a three-month project, you may be able to use this one as a learning opportunity so that the next time a project like this comes up, you’ve shown you’re the right person for the job.

Slow down to control how you will react

In times of stress, it’s easiest to operate from a place of emotion and let your feelings get the best of you. If a situation or person at work is triggering an emotional response in you, your best bet is to pause, explore why this is setting you off, and make an assessment given what you know. What can you learn about yourself through this difficult situation?

Remember that you have a choice in how you respond. You have agency, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Things aren’t happening to you, but they are happening. Once you’ve had a chance to reflect, choose to engage from a place of objectivity, rather than emotion.

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Seek help and avoid gossip

When it comes to office politics, there is a fine line to walk between providing helpful feedback or seeking input and sounding like a slighted employee. If you have a trusted mentor, peer, or manager, seek their help to navigate through this challenge, but exercise caution. You want to avoid name-calling, laying blame, spreading rumors, or otherwise presenting the issue in a way that suggests you haven’t given anyone the benefit of the doubt.

Instead, go into the conversation with an open mind. Others may have an alternate perspective on what’s happening, and may even point out flaws in your reasoning. If you’re looking for validation to make you feel better about the situation, save that for a different conversation (ideally, with someone you don’t work with, otherwise you’re just contributing to the swirl).

You’ll know you’re ready to seek help if you’re ready to receive tough feedback or advice that may make you uncomfortable, like empathizing with the person who has caused you the most distress. A neutral way to approach the conversation is to state facts–not your perceptions–and ask: “What would you do if you were in my position?”

Keep doing great work and foster existing connections

When the political churn comes to an end, you don’t want to be the person who got so caught up in it that they neglected their work, or completely withdrew from the situation. Be the person who kept doing their best and continued to build strong relationships, so no one has an excuse to question your contributions–even in an unsavory work environment.

While office politics exist in just about every environment, they don’t have to get the best of you. Using these four rules, you’ll be able to navigate just about any unpleasant political situation that comes your way. Though we may not always be able to avoid politics at work, we can equip ourselves to manage it, bounce back, and move on.

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Beer, sausages and politics: German nationalism threatens Oktoberfest

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Despite its political neutrality and impression of inconsequential revelry, in recent decades, the festival has become a stage on which politicians can show off their common touch.
Parading in dirndls, chewing pretzels and singing folk songs, these political elites will celebrate a “Germanness” so seemingly playful that it is acceptable in a country that, since the Second World War, has shied away from patriotism.
Wurstmarkt -- world's largest wine festival
And this weekend, the images will seem more timely than ever. The ruling conservative party in Bavaria looks likely to lose thousands of votes in the state election next month to the far-right, populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which campaigns against immigration, Islam and multiculturalism.
It also calls on ethnic Germans to have more children to prevent the eradication of the German people. “The preservation of one’s own national people is a priority in politics and for every government,” the party said in its manifesto for last year’s federal election. Roughly one in eight Germans voted for the AfD in that election, many of them angry about the arrival of a million refugees and migrants in 2015.
Polls predict that the Christian Social Union — a conservative party that has mostly ruled Bavaria since the 1940s and is moving rapidly to the right on immigration in a bid to head off the AfD — might lose its absolute majority.
But using Oktoberfest for political advantage is nothing new.
Bavaria's State Premier Guenther Beckstein toasts with Angela Merkel during the Berlin version "Oktoberfest" in 2008Bavaria's State Premier Guenther Beckstein toasts with Angela Merkel during the Berlin version "Oktoberfest" in 2008
The festival has a long and unfortunate history of being used in this way. It first took place in 1810, following the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. It was seen by some as an attempt by the nobility to win favor among normal Germans.
Then, in the 1930s, the Nazis renamed it the “Great German folk festival,” a celebration of Aryan identity.
After the war, the festival became a politics-free space. Today, politicians of all ideological backgrounds make public appearances.
From Angela Merkel to rebel left-wing politicians such as Claudia Roth, who recently paraded her dirndl there, mainstream politicians have their pictures taken holding enormous glasses of beer, or steins.
It is remarkable that all these politicians have long felt comfortable promoting a “festival that emphasizes its German origin with strength and power in every aspect,” as the official website claims.
Germany approves arms sales to Saudi Arabia, breaking coalition promiseGermany approves arms sales to Saudi Arabia, breaking coalition promise
But even this idea of Germanness lacks a certain authenticity. The kinds of dirndls and lederhosen worn at the festival have little to do with German history. Dirndels and lederhosen were not even worn in Bavaria when the festival first took place.
And it could very well be the case that this gimicky, artificial environment — complete with fancy dress and beer — provides the perfect cover for a politician to roar German songs without looking nationalist.
And it’s this roaring that might soothe some German voters that long for a uniform homeland — without otherness.
And while German politics is currently divisive and the atmosphere in Bavaria is febrile, it’s hard to see this sentiment winning a majority for any party. But as more or the German mainstream apes the policies of far-right nationalists simply to stop their votes from bleeding away, it’s worth asking the question: where could this end?

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