Office politics exist in every workplace setting and are difficult to avoid. Even though you don’t need to participate in office politics to survive, putting your head in the sand and “not getting involved” isn’t practical either — if you aren’t careful, you can be embroiled in a problem you didn’t see coming.
The following top 10 best practices for navigating workplace politics and personalities should help you stay ahead of the game and keep you focused on why you are there — to do your job.
Navigating Office Politics
1. Learn the Lay of the Land
In order to successfully navigate office politics and the different personalities you encounter, it’s vital to observe what is going on around you. Try to quickly identify allies and potential rivals. You don’t need to get involved in the politics, but learn the lay of the land so you can take precautions. Remember, you don’t need to choose sides when you spot rivalries in the office. Instead allow yourself to gain a clear picture of the rules, the players, and the strategies they use so you aren’t caught off guard or sucked into the drama.
- Eats together.
- Is invited to important meetings and events.
- Isn’t invited to important meetings and events.
- Knows everything about upcoming changes before the send button is clicked.
- Doesn’t know about changes — EVER!
- Has a temper and what causes their blood to boil.
2. Do Your Job and Focus On the Goal
Any involvement in office politics should be for your career success and job fulfillment and not for enjoyment or to join in as one of “them.” Always remember that reacting emotionally to any office politics or personalities can significantly affect your decision-making skills and could cause regrets. Don’t ever believe you need to indulge in gossip, backstabbing, manipulation, power plays, or any other form of office cattiness in order to win at office politics. Focus on your career goals and develop a plan for success for dealing with the unique office politics you encounter on a daily basis, without “stepping” on others.
3. Do What’s Right
Know what your personal principles are and stick with them! If you are placed in a situation that requires you to take action, ensure you aren’t reacting out of fear, revenge, or jealousy. Ask yourself why you’re getting involved. Scruples go a long way in the mire of office politics.
4. Associate Yourself With the Right People
How do you know with whom to align in your workplace? Take time to identify key influencers or leaders in your organization, and find a way to get them on your side without compromising your principles or values. Is there a leader who can offer you protection? Can you do this without needing to gossip to get them on your side? Be careful not to become anyone’s pet project. Your coworkers will notice and you’ll wonder why you’re always eating lunch alone. Giving in “just this once” can lead to your demise.
5. Lead by Example and With Confidence
Take pride in your values and do your job with confidence. When you make a decision stand by it, and don’t waiver in your decision because you want to please one of the power players in your office. Do your best to make sound decisions without getting involved in messy politics.
Navigating Workplace Personalities
6. The Gossip King/Queen
No one is perfect, many have played the gossip game. However, there are people among you who thoroughly enjoy gossiping about others and reporting bad news. Gossip is destructive and brings down workplace morale.
When you hear others gossiping or if someone wants to “confide” in you, beware! Avoid it at all costs and don’t get sucked in. Unless he or she is a really good friend, steer clear. If they are telling you something about someone else you can be sure they are talking behind your back also. Gossip isn’t productive. Change the subject in a more positive direction and remember to talk about ideas and not people.
7. The Energizer
You know this person — always excited, full of energy (or maybe too much coffee), or they love to be the center of attention. You will literally hear them above all others as they are often loud and abrasive. But don’t fault them completely. They have passion and are born networkers. You might feel annoyed by their extreme personalities, but try engaging with them. You could be surprised at how great they are and how much honest feedback they are willing to give.
8. Anger Addicts
This person most often presents as the office bully. He or she might undermine others publically, have temper tantrums or angry outbursts, or privately attack someone and then act as though nothing happened when confronted. According to a 2015 survey, 55 percent of all professionals questioned reported being bullied by a co-worker, and a shocking 65 percent stated they “dreaded” going to work because of a bullying co-worker. Don’t engage with this person directly and don’t react — that’s what they want.
9. The Lingerer
You know that super friendly co-worker who could talk to you all day rather than work? You have a job to do, so politely let this person know you need to get to work. Thank them for the conversation and ask to continue it over happy hour (after work hours). Politeness can go a long way when setting boundaries with a talkative co-worker.
A big ego, self-seeking, arrogant, and often a charmer, the narcissist can suck you dry. Narcissists often aren’t team players, want things their way, and will do what it takes to look good, even if that means throwing you under the bus. You might be more competent than the narcissist, but the way to win and get along is to feed his or her ego and put him or her in a position of power. Don’t get bogged down by who should get the credit. Get your job done and let him or her sit in the limelight.
It’s difficult to avoid office politics, but you can learn about the players and the rules in order to play the game in a way that aligns with your personal values and principles.