What I’ve learned about workplace politics and how to deal with them

"No matter how good you are at your job, the reality is, politics matter. They can make the difference between you getting your next promotion versus you getting sacked."

If you’re not a seasoned politician, when you start your career you’ll be a little goldfish surrounded by sharks in the big corporate sea. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It’s not all doom and gloom, I suppose. In my experience, people are mostly nice and co-operative, but it just takes one person with ill intentions to ruin a reputation.

Be aware of your surroundings

Know who the gossip mongers are and be alert when you join a new team. Get to know the clique situation. Associate yourself with supportive people within or without the team. Walk around to the other side of the office, introduce yourself.

Get to know your manager really well

Get to know your manager’s manager as well. The more solid your relationship is with “higher ups,” the better your chances of survival against any malicious and baseless attacks by some insecure coworker.

Use the CC option in your e-mail

If someone is trying to take credit for your work, CC all subsequent or previous submissions to your manager. CC as often as you think is necessary. You should always report incidents, as gracefully as possible, as soon as possible. Always nip it at the bud.

Don’t cower when confronted

I was once taken into a room and harassed with very unprofessional questions. My first impulse was to shut down, but I managed to speak up for myself. Check your posture and facial expression in these situations: keep them neutral and unaffected. Acknowledge what happened tactfully with suggestions on how to alleviate differences and CC whomever needs to know about the situation.

Shrug it off

Don’t take undue criticism or rumours personally. This is a hard one for me. I find myself fuming in disbelief at times when faced with politics. However, I am learning to check that emotion at the elevator. It’s good for my nerves.

Work hard

If a legit criticism comes your way, take it with a grain of salt. Claim personal responsibility. Work on it and don’t make the same mistake twice. Ever.

If you’re entering your very first job and are moderately new to the world of office politics, just being aware and perceptive will help you a lot. There are many motivations for people to take part in office politics, however, it’s mostly ignited by insecurity and incompetence. I have fallen victim to that on one occasion in my short career so far.

I was a newly minted manager for a position that was reputed to be brutal. Not having had previous experience in managing 100+ people, I was nervous to say the least. Staying true to myself, I forged on and changed a few things here and there. I know I did a good job because my performance review from my residents was golden.

In retrospect, I must have made it look much easier than it really was. Why? Because when, in the past, it was difficult to find applicants for that position, for the next couple of terms, the resident manager position was filled by some of my exec committee members.

Long story short, despite having an awesome run, I lost out at the end. Why? I was too busy focusing on my job and didn’t care enough about the politicking and nor did I pay attention to it. There were some false allegations made about a fictional fire alarm and when that didn’t work out, yet another rumour. There was absolutely no reason for it except to eliminate me as a possible candidate for next term perhaps.

So, no matter how good you are at your job, the reality is, politics matter. They can make the difference between you getting your next promotion versus you getting sacked. If you’re like me, you’ll agree that politics suck. You’re bright, ambitious and capable. You just want to learn and do your absolute best and leave dirty politicking to where it belongs, Wasilla perhaps? Well, you can do all that and manage office politics gracefully. Have courage and shine on.

What are some of your experiences with office politics and how did you deal with it at the time?