Office politics will be inevitable in any organisation where you have more than 2 people working in it. There will always be a difference in opinion and no doubt more than one person may be after the same promotion. But it can also be the end all and be all of how you are perceived. There is really no way of knowing what the politics is like when you first start at a job but below I offer my 8 ways to avoid getting caught up in it while still looking like a team player with your reputation intact.
1.Don’t engage in gossip. Now, the urge to engage in gossip will be high when you first start a new job because you’ll want to fit in but that is the worst thing you could do. If a colleague tries to engage you in gossip the best thing to do is of course be polite but don’t make a comment in agreement. Say something like “oh, O.K., thanks for letting me know” and leave it at that while getting back to the work that you’re doing.
2.Focus on your work responsibilities. By focusing on the work you need to get done is a very effective way to avoid office politics because by being busy and keeping your head down will make it harder for you to engage in anything negative and for others to try to engage you. Also, by being productive at work will shine a positive light on you as far as your managers are concerned.
3.Downplay the drama. If there is any sort of melodrama going on don’t make a big deal of it. If people are looking to get your opinion on it then make it look like it’s not a big deal to you. Laugh it off or put a positive spin on it. There are so many examples of these sorts of dramas that it’s difficult to come up with a one size fits all comeback. One example could be if someone is accused of stealing everybody’s ideas and passing it off as their own to the boss and if you’re confronted with that by your colleagues, then say something like “Gee, I’d be flattered if anyone thought my ideas were good enough to pass off as their own (tongue in cheek of course) but if that were to happen to me then rest assured that I’d bring it up via the correct channels”
4.Don’t assume confidentiality. Just because you told someone one on one something about yourself or about another colleague, don’t assume that it won’t be repeated later on. A lot of people have learnt this the hard way.
5.Be observant. Be aware of what is going on around you. Who are the team players, who are the main instigators of gossip, who are the ones with an obvious agenda and so on. Know who are the ones to avoid and the ones to align yourself with.
6.Reveal little about your personal life. Of course, open up about the fact that you’re married with a couple of kids and 2 cats and that you like taking holidays by the beach but not much more than. Don’t tell them about your issues with your spouse or that you’re on medication for something or what religious group you belong to. Anything that you reveal that is too personal can be used against you or as gossip in the future.
7.Choose your friends carefully. Considering the amount of time that is spent working in an office then of course it is inevitable that you meet some good friends there. So, obviously you need to make sure that the friends that you make at the office are genuine ones. I was a taught a very good lesson on being wary when I was new at one of my previous jobs where I was immediately befriended by a colleague who’d started a year earlier. She was extremely helpful when I first started and literally took me under her wing and of course being young and naive I started to confide in her. Then one day I got a phone call from my manager saying that this colleague had divulged what I had confided to her to my manager under the pretext that she was ‘worried’ about me. Fortunately my manager was very understanding about the whole thing and left it at that but I didn’t speak to that colleague again.
8.Go via the correct channels when you’re unhappy. So if you do have an issue with a colleague or a manager or your workload etc, find out the correct way to deal with it. For larger organisations a good place to start may be human resources otherwise go straight to you manager. If you start to tell your colleagues about it then what can happen is that what you’ve said may be spread throughout the office and very much like Chinese whispers ends up being completely different to what you said in the first place.
Hopefully the points above have given you some insight on dealing with the ever inevitable office politics. Like I said, unless you work alone, it is bound to happen.
Till next time