Career Article 111:
Surviving Office Politics
By Tamara Dowling, CPRW
Do you ever get fed up with office politics and want to keep to yourself? "I'll just stay at my desk and do my job. I'm not going to hang around these people."
Office politics are a fact of life. It seems like we run into the same personality types, and same cliques again and again. We always ask ourselves why we didn't see it coming and avoid the conflict.
The answer is not to isolate yourself from your associates. If you are out of the group, you set yourself up to be the one talked about, or blamed for miscellaneous, trivial problems. You're the outsider.
You also miss out on the real news in an organization. The reports in the company newsletters are just a part of the story. You'll know more by mingling with your peers in the lunchroom -- or taking a coffee break with the receptionist. It helps to know who's 'on their way out' and what happened at the last board meeting.
However, when it comes to petty disagreements or jealousies between two sides, never take a side. It will do you little good to defend one side. To be successful in the corporate world, you must be fluid and able to circulate among all of your peers. Why cut yourself off from the support of one group, or even one person? Be diplomatic, understanding of all sides, and refrain from judgment.
Avoid gossiping about your associates. When others dish the dirt, carefully remove yourself. If you add your comments, your words become part of the story as that infector carries the story to the next person. It is far better to protect your reputation and your relationships, than indulge in gossip.
Don't you hate the 'Little Miss Perfect' who seems to do everything right? She is always smiling, bringing cookies on Friday, and offering to help the boss.
Another way to cut yourself off is by doing no wrong. People like real people with real imperfections, bad hair days and an occasional screw up. If you seem perfect, your peers will be waiting, if not planning, for you to fail.
I am not saying that you should cause havoc and risk your career. However, be subtle in your ambitions. Don't be seen as the first to volunteer, and always in the CEO's office. Show your human side to your associates. Let down your guard. This will make it easier for them to trust you.
We can boil it down to a strategy in which you do not cut yourself off, but enjoy favorable relationships with your peers. You may not be able to get along with everyone. Just try not to offend or alienate. Don't be seen as political, or biased. You are impartial, and in the end you'll look good. The best way to win trust among all of your associates is not to gossip. Lastly, be careful not to appear to be the bosses' pet. The bottom line is you want to be trusted, respected and liked.