How to handle office politics

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Do you sometimes feel like you’re walking on eggshells around some of your colleagues? Working with a variety of unique personalities can cause tension in the office. Find out what office politics looks like and how to effectively deal with it.

Office politics exists in most workplaces, even virtual ones. A survey by Accountemps revealed that 80% of employees who participated reported office politics in the workplace.

And while some employees will engage in it, others, mainly those with more passive personalities, will avoid getting involved.

What is office politics?

Office politics can be identified by the behaviour and actions of co-workers seeking status and/or power in the office. This pursuit can sometimes be at the expense of others and can create a tense environment.

Office politicians generally do this to achieve goals such as increasing their power, or influencing the company or individuals to reach their objectives.

Office politics includes behaviour such as:

  • Gossiping, including spreading rumours about others
  • Acting in bad faith, for example, a more senior colleague taking credit for your work or criticising you in front of others
  • Operating with inside information, for instance withholding important information from certain colleagues to give yourself the upper hand
  • Excluding certain groups or individuals by ignoring or leaving out a team member because they did a project more efficiently than you
  • Forming alliances with like-minded people or manipulating others to help you reach your objectives
  • Bullying – this would involve behaviour such as threatening, humiliating or intimidating others

Office politics contributes to a toxic work culture, so employees may find it difficult to work comfortably under these conditions. Some may struggle to concentrate, tensions may develop and other workers may even be fearful of getting involved or taking sides.

How to cope with office politics

It can be tempting to stay on the sidelines, but playing an active role in a company is important for your growth and influence at work. For instance, if you’d like to apply for a more senior position or take part in conversations that will affect you, actively participating in a healthy manner and diffusing office politics could help you get there.

This doesn’t mean becoming an office politician yourself, but it’s important to know how to effectively navigate the office. Try the following:

  • Avoid indulging in gossip and bad-mouthing others. If you have an issue with a colleague, rather talk to them directly and involve HR if it’s something serious.
  • Don’t be passive-aggressive. Voice your concerns and communicate when you feel misunderstood or don’t agree with something.
  • Stand up for yourself while acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Respect everyone in the workplace and remember that everyone is different.
  • Concentrate on your duties at work and ensure that your tasks are always done efficiently so that your work speaks for itself.
  • Stay true to your values. For example, if you value honesty and integrity, don’t gossip about others even if your colleagues are doing it. Also, encourage them to stop.
  • Don’t take anything personally and use tact when giving others feedback.
  • Avoid retaliating when a colleague does something inappropriate. Talk to them privately instead to address their behaviour.

For more workplace advice, read these helpful articles:

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.


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How to handle office politics

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