Steer Clear of Office Politics

  • women powering business
  • November 02, 2012

What’s the best way to avoid office politics? That’s the topic of Kristin Kelley’s latest article for Women Powering Business.

“Whenever you get a group of people together there’s going to be chemistry, or lack thereof,” according to Kelley. “Dynamics between individuals are made up of one’s personality, culture, upbringing – everything that makes you, you. The workplace is no exception. People have their own ideas, their own way of doing things, and in order to make it the best work environment it can be, learning to navigate the politics of the office is not only a lifelong skill that’s fundamental to a long-term career, it’s necessary for your own sanity.”

Being good at your job isn’t enough — mastering the office, its people and their personalities are just as important to having a successful career. Getting bogged down in office drama, politics, and cliques can also make or break a position. In a Wall Street Journal article, office personalities were placed in a “meeting” situation to illustrate just how detrimental a disagreeable employee can be to a group’s goals, agendas, and participants.

Kelley then highlights some ways to avoid office politics:

Don’t be a ‘Negative Nancy’
As the WSJ article points to, there’s a naysayer in nearly every dynamic – the person who, despite efforts made by others, appreciates nothing and disagrees with everything. They aren’t open to new ideas, they shoot down initiatives, and more likely than not, they don’t offer up solutions. They literally function to say “no.”
Point Taken: Be open-minded to others’ points of view, and if you don’t agree with an idea, offer up an alternative.

Rise Above
Nitpicking, overthinking, and stooping into the office muck will keep you just there – in the muck. Be the team member who doesn’t gossip about the company, management, or one another. This type of behavior will lead you nowhere. I promise. A great manager of mine once said, “There is always a place for a positive person in an organization”. Others gravitate towards that person and they make a workplace better. Be that person. Not only does it give you more job security, but you and everyone else around you will be happier for it.
Point Taken: No drama-mamas get promoted.

Lead by Fact, Not by Emotion
Be able to differentiate when you’re reacting with emotion, and when you need to take a step back, calm down, and then allow yourself to re-engage and address an issue. This critical step will save you from compulsive, irrational decisions. Leaders and those around you will appreciate level-headedness and the ability to act rationally. It is easy to get caught up in the emotions of people around you in a heated or controversial situation. The better person will be able to maintain composure as the heat is turned up.
Point Taken: “Don’t make a permanent decision based on temporary feelings.”

Empower people in making decisions
The WSJ also called attention to the “dominator.” This type of personality – not to be confused with a strong personality, which can be good when appropriately leveraged – causes belittling and bullying, and can be harmful not only to the organization at large, but also to those who they’re actually dominating. Listen openly and sanction second thoughts and new ideas – you’ll find that perhaps you don’t know it all and when others contribute it makes them feel empowered and tied into the goals and objectives of the organization.
Point Taken: “Be wary of leaders who keep their followers in a state of continual dependence.” Be not a dictator, but someone who is empowering, endorsing, and helpful.

Build Relationships
There are many types of personalities within a company – titled leadership, informal leaders, cheerleaders, detractors, etc. – learn to coordinate with all of them. The people who have been the most successful within an organization are those who learned, and at an early point, to be open-minded and approachable by everyone.
Point Taken
: The more universal you are, the more people will respect you, appreciate you, and want to promote you.

Kelley likens the workplace to high school or the sandbox in middle school — there’s a promoter, a go-getter, a bully, a prankster – and then there’s YOU. Be everyone’s friend and nobody’s best friend, she advises. “Stay out of the drama because trust me,” Kelley wrote, “these types of politics are nothing you want to build a career around.”

Kristin Kelley is the Executive Vice President of Marketing for Randstad US and contributor for Women Powering Business, a source focusing on women-leadership in in the workplace.


Follow Women Powering Business on Twitter and download Randstad’s latest news, insights and reports at Workforce 360.