How to Not to Be Brought Down by Office Politics

July 14, 2011

corporate employee with coworkersIf you find yourself caught up in office drama, stop and consider how deeply you want to get involved. Unfortunately most workplaces do have politics; it’s something that can’t be escaped. However, some environments are more prone to negativity than others. It’s hard to get your job done when people are fighting against each other instead of working together.

When you start a job it usually isn’t obvious that you’re walking into a political hotbed. You’re just learning your duties and getting to know your co-workers, and you’re not aware of the dynamics. As you go on and become part of the inner workings, you may be pressured to choose sides.

So what can you do to stay out of the way of situations that can possibly sink your career?

Be professional

No matter what’s going on in the office, don’t allow yourself to be pulled into negative reactions. When you let the behavior of bad bosses or resentful co-workers get to you, you’ll end up on their level. Once you react to their behavior you’re now part of the problem. Take a step back and focus on doing your job.

Often employees are dragged into disputes between higher-ups. The unfortunate part is that you can end up paying the consequences, no matter who comes out on top. When your co-workers get together to gossip, try your best not to be drawn into the drama. It will be difficult because your reluctance to join in may turn some people off. In the workplace there’s constant pressure to be part of the group. Just be selective as to what type of group you align yourself with.

Stay in integrity

Are you firm in your own beliefs, or will you do anything to gain acceptance? When office politics are overshadowing the work, then you have to decide what your place in that environment will be. Are you a person of your word, or will you say anything in order to get favor?

Set boundaries when it comes to how you interact with the people around you. That’s not something that should be determined by the behavior of others. Whether or not you stay in integrity is up to you, not up to your co-workers, your manager or anyone else.

Determine your long-term goals

Consider your objectives for being in that position. Are you looking for career advancement or just doing your job until you find something better? Getting into office squabbles can affect how you’re perceived by others in the company (and possibly in your industry). If you’re planning to build a long-term career in that company, avoid getting involved in activities that will overshadow everything you do throughout your tenure.

Stay balanced

A politically-charged atmosphere is extremely stressful, especially when you’re doing your best to stay out of the line of fire. You can end up sick and filled with dread once Sunday evening rolls around. Find ways to calm your mind and your emotions. If you never get a break from the tension, you’ll end up stuck in anger and resentment. You don’t want the effects of your environment to turn you into someone you don’t recognize.

Take stock

Though everyone has dealt with office politics at one time or another, if it becomes unbearable you’ll have to decide if you want to remain in that job. You may be better off making a move to a department (or company) where you’ll have less in-fighting and more job satisfaction. In spite of the politics, are you continuing to learn and advance your skills in your current position? If your skills are growing stale you owe it to yourself to look for an environment with more opportunity.

There’s nothing wrong with being a team player, but be careful if it means that you must be a political player in order to be accepted. Some people are able to manage the political game and remain unscathed, however most people aren’t so lucky. Protect yourself and your career by being smart about how you participate.

Copyright © 2011 -2014 Deborah A. Bailey


Deborah A Bailey

Deborah is a writer, writing workshop presenter and published author. She's host of the Women Entrepreneurs Radio podcast.

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