Navigating Office Politics

By Paula Santonocito

Here you should tap into another one of your strengths: instinct. Or, as a male colleague might tell you, go with your gut.

It could be that your work situation involves harmless politics, like a good-natured sales competition among various teams, where it’s understood that everyone is playing to win.

Once you ascertain that it is not a cut-throat, backstabbing situation and instead one with an acceptable level of friendly, healthy competition, you probably will decide you want to play along. The difference between the two will immediately become discernable. “Bad” politics reek of negativity and attack-mode behavior; “good” politics may be spirited, but are ultimately well-intentioned.

What happens if you find yourself in a “bad” situation? Decide if you can hang back and not let the politics override the work. If so, this might be an acceptable solution. However, if you are required to participate, and doing so means compromising your values, integrity or ethics, you should take a stand.

Either voice your concern to your colleagues or talk to the team leader privately. If this gets you nowhere, speak with human resources.

It should go without saying that if the political situation involves blatantly wrong behavior—as in illegal or absolutely unethical—you have a responsibility to yourself and the company for which you work to speak up.

Office politics can be harmless. Office politics can also be extremely harmful (think Enron). Use your single-minded skills to decide what’s happening in your workplace, and decide how you will handle the situation.

You may never run for office, and you may never run your office. But if you approach office politics the right way, you can run the various aspects of your life, including your career, in a way that makes you comfortable and successful.


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