Office politics are like death and taxes – you can’t avoid them. However, you can find ways to deal with them so gossip and power plays don’t hurt your career:
1. Be fault free. You can’t be perfect, but you can try to be faultless. Be a team player, meet deadlines, be punctual and go the extra mile. If you become the source of gossip for your “faultless” ways, that is something you cannot control. So, just focus on the bigger prize – promotion, job satisfaction and a better life for your family.
2. Trash the tittle-tattle. When workplace gossip finds its way to you, excuse yourself or subtly change the subject. Sometimes, the less you know about your office-mates, the better. Put it this way, would you want other colleagues talking behind YOUR back?
3. Don’t be a brown-noser. Cupcakes for the boss? Don’t bother. You’ll be more effective if you’re open, pleasant and visible, but also professional and assertive.
4. Recognise trouble-makers. When you start a new job, you may find everyone is genuinely pleased to have you on board. However, in any office it’s common to discover you have some ready-made enemies – people who dislike you the minute you show up. Beware:
- The secret enemy who appears to be your good friend. During those first buddy lunches when she fills you in on the job scene, she may include information on office rules that “nobody bothers with”. You may hear, for example that “no one ever comes to the department meetings on time”. So you stroll in to your first meeting five minutes late to find everyone assembled waiting tensely for you! Your “friend” has seen to it that you’ve made a bad first impression and that you’re no longer a threat.
- The jealous colleague who “shoots” at anyone holding your position. Although not qualified for the job you hold, your opponent would dearly like to have it.
- The colleague with a different work style. In a typical case of “That’s not the way I did it!”, your work style may be different from that of someone who once held your job, or who is holding a job similar to yours. Therefore, to them, you must be “wrong”.
Just knowing that these kinds of ready-made opponents exist in the job world helps you recognise them and keep you from worrying too much about the situation. Without this understanding, you may mistakenly think the antagonism is somehow your fault.
Once you’ve identified the co-workers who are likely to cause drama, make sure your dealings with them are kept strictly professional, and that you always cover your bases with follow-up emails or paperwork.