When it comes to dealing with office politics, one can often find themselves in awkward and even job-threatening situations. Some common issues in the workplace are gossip, hyper-competitive peers, or egomaniacal, game playing bosses. These days it seems everyone is under some kind of financial strain, too, which only adds fuel to inner office fires.
Working in an office is a lot like being part of a large family. There are always going to be egos, feelings, pressures, and expectations and everyone is expected to behave in a way that keeps the “family” together. This cohesiveness is not always easily achieved, but it is possible. It is also important to keep in mind that not every person is going to be happy all the time; there will always be conflict. How we deal with these conflicts can make or break our relationships, at work just as with our families.
Conflict resolution takes patience and above all else, honest communication. Telling someone how you really feel at work, however, comes with risks. As long as these risks are carefully calculated, and handled with patience, open communication is the key to success. Does it make you uncomfortable when the office gossip talks about your co-workers? Let them know you take a neutral position when it comes to people’s personal business. Once he or she realizes you truly aren’t interested in playing, they will stop approaching you.
Every office has at least one person who will chase success at any cost, even sinking as low as to use deception to further their own goals. People like this cannot be fully trusted. This creates a problem within the “family,” because being a part of a team requires a certain amount of trust. You may have no choice but to work with this overly-competitive person, but even the most cut-throat co-worker can be dealt with. Know that people like this in reality are usually the most insecure of anyone else you work with. Take opportunities to compliment them on their work, but never stop performing at your own best just to avoid their wrath. Stay guarded, do your best but remember the more insecure or threatened they feel, the worse (and more desperate) their behavior will become. As the old saying goes, “kill them with kindness.” A few kind words can go a long way in preserving the peace in the office.
What if the conflicts are with your boss, then what? Tread carefully. Be as detail-oriented and on point as you possibly can. Leave no reason for your superior to use your work as an excuse to undermine or bring your employment into question. In addition, it is wise to create allies at work. There will always be good, honest and hardworking people around you. Seek them out. If your boss likes to stir up inner-office trouble, presenting yourself as a part of a united front will offer more protection if your job is ever threatened. Take opportunities to stand up for the people who you know are working to do their best. This may seem like an invitation for trouble, but a decent, hardworking person will recognize the risk you took and may someday return the favor, taking up for you when you need it.
Office politics can never be avoided completely, but if you keep calm and remain focused on your own performance, much of the chaos will pass right by you. The alternative is to get caught up in it and wind up in over your head, which can only harm your own productivity, and eventually your own standing within the company.