Your guide to survive office politics

  • career advice
  • November 03, 2016
As Election Day approaches political campaigns will often turn nasty (just look at our current presidential race). Candidates will verbally attack their opponents, accusing them of lies and misconduct. Generally, the mudslinging ends after the ballots are cast, but in the workplace this behavior can last all year long.

Every office has people who try to gain an advantage over their coworkers, and they will often try to drag you into their game. It’s important you know how to react when you are put into a situation that may seem unfair to some, but extremely beneficial to others.
 
Here are three different types of people you’ll likely encounter at work who will try to use office politics to their advantage.
 

The tattle tale 

Almost every office in the corporate world has a tattle tale. This person might tell your supervisor if you take a long lunch or twist your words to make you sounds bad. The tattle tale might also make a negative comment about a co-worker or boss and pass the blame to you if you continue the gossip.

A political pro would steer clear of this person. But if that’s not possible, the pro would start a paper trail, documenting all email interactions and conversations, especially those about tasks and assignments for projects that include the tattler. Even if you happen to agree with the tattle tale, it’s important you don’t give that person anything they can use against you.

For instance, the tattle tale could say, “I can’t believe the boss is expecting us to complete this project by Friday. There’s no way this will be done on time ESPECIALLY with incompetent Suzy helping.”



The boss’s pet  

Most effective bosses try to avoid this, but it always seems one person or a precious few are viewed as the favorites. What have they done to get this status? Observe their common attributes and see what makes the boss hold them in higher regard over the rest of the team. If they often take on extra projects and think of unique ideas to solve problems and improve the business, then try to join that group. However, if they’ve become the favorites by taking credit for other people's work, maybe think about joining another group.

Here’s a common scenario that might unfold to peg good vs. bad favorite status. The boss has a meeting and asks the whole team, “Hi everyone, I’d like to try a different workflow to see if this improves our business and I need some volunteers to test the effectiveness.”



The instigator

This person loves to create chaos in the workplace and force you to take sides between co-workers or supervisors. They will try to enlist others in their quest to create drama and usually target people on the team that they perceive as a threat. This can manifest in the spreading of rumors to more blatant attempts like scheduling key meetings when that person is off shift – making it appear that co-worker isn’t contributing to the team.   

Here’s an example of something the instigator might say: “Jenny is such a terrible supervisor. Half her staff knows more than her. I don’t know how you stand to work on her team every day. You need to try and get on Joe’s team instead. He’s awesome.”



Winning by a landslide!

Keep your integrity. If playing office politics is sacrificing that, maybe it’s time to move on. Assess the political climate and see what attributes your boss rewards. Does your boss gravitate towards people that work hard and offer positive solutions and strive to make the business better? Or is your boss more interested in learning gossip and pitting co-workers against each other fostering a hostile work environment? If the latter is true, don’t engage in that behavior. Do the best job you can under those circumstances and devote more energy to finding a better job.

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