How to Navigate Through Politics in the Workplace

According to a 2012 Robert Half study, 56 percent of employees in the United States believe it is necessary to engage in office politics in order to get ahead.

Author and career coach Julie Jansen explains that today’s diverse workplaces are filled with individuals with differing values, goals, experiences and personalities. Office politics are a natural occurrence. Jansen says that office politics are common because, “some employees have more power and authority than other … getting promoted or gaining visibility with senior management is important to many employees; and staff often have to compete for limited resources.”

Does your office break room or kitchen mirror a high school cafeteria complete with lunch table cliques? If you’re intimidated by the political jostling of the elite “Plastics” of the board room or unsure how to approach the “Band Geeks” or “Jocks,” here are a few tips from Simply Hired employees to help navigate the treacherous waters of office politics:

1. Be confident

Remember as a child how teachers and parents comforted you after a bully’s attack, telling you that the bully was only picking on you out of his or her own insecurity? Well office politics operate in much the same way. If you’re experiencing negative behavior at the hands of coworkers, take a deep breath and give yourself a pep talk in the mirror. Having and displaying confidence in yourself and your work will help make you unflappable in the winds of office politics.

2. Stay self-aware

Imagine this scenario: two of your colleagues are jostling for the same promotion. One of them is your close friend while the other is someone you haven’t worked closely with. Throughout their interviewing process your good friend keeps you up-to-date and informed. You exchange words of advice and a bit of harmless gossip back and forth about the other candidate. Stop. Did you just rationalize “harmless” gossip? In moments like this where friendship and work life collide it’s important to remember that professionalism must come first. Don’t contribute to the struggles of day-to-day work life by becoming a negative force in the office. Try your best to provide positive feedback and support for your friend while keeping yourself out of any mudslinging.

3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

When you were a kid and you had a disagreement with friends in elementary school, oftentimes your parents counseled you saying, “You’re not going to like everyone in your life, but it’s your job to learn how to coexist.” This simple message can be applied to most stressful or uncomfortable workplace situations. While you may not always get along with your coworkers, and in some cases may rather dislike certain team members, it is important to treat each with respect.

4. Find alignment

Often negativity arises in the workplace when shifting priorities conflict with one another, causing team members to jostle one another for budget, time or attention. The competitive tendency is natural in business, but it should be approached systematically. Take the initiative to seek guidance on priorities when discord becomes a distraction. Sometimes this means having a quick check-in with management or with the other project owner. No need to squabble when you can work cohesively.

5. Escalate when necessary

It’s always important to approach these matters calmly, pleasantly and diplomatically. If you are feeling bullied or harassed in any way do not suffer in silence. Bring this to the attention of your manager or human resources.

While many of us may enjoy watching high school comedies or reminiscing about our “glory” days, few people actually want to live that day-to-day cliquey life any longer. Take care to act kindly and respectfully and you’ll be doing your part to make your work environment comfortable for everyone.