Office Politics: How to Spot the Signs and Avoid Conflict

Office Politics: How to Spot the Signs and Avoid Conflict
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 29 July, 2022

Whether you like it or not, office politics remains one of the realities of the workplace. With inequalities in job hierarchy, tenure, power, and influence comes disparity and, at times, the unfortunate clashing of ideologies.

Whether you’re a new hire or have been in the same company for several years, office politics may play a role in determining who gets ahead, who gets recognition, and who gets the blame in a conflict.

Despite this, don’t let office politics frighten you or intimidate you. What matters is how you establish relationships at work and deal with power struggles at play. Read on to learn about the definition of office politics, how it works, and how you can manoeuvre your way around it.

So What Exactly Is Office Politics?

Simply put, office politics refers to the disparity between individuals at work – from beliefs, opinions, values, and personalities to power or authority and how they use such for personal gain. Every workplace has its unique system of how office politics work. It is why you must recognise its mechanisms early on.

Of course, it is always easier to say than do. It may also take time before you become familiar with the workings of your company’s office politics. You’ll also eventually learn that some personas or roles typically manifest in most workplaces and, in a way, contribute to office politics. Here are a few of them.

Related article: Stressed From Office Politics? Here Are 5 Types of Conflict in the Workplace

The Usual Suspects

The Rumourmonger

They are the office gossip. They like to spread rumours about people at work, which can be potentially damaging or humiliating. While gossipers tend to get a bad reputation as they may be offensively sharing news, it’s not necessarily safe to assume that they always do so with malice or ill intention. Some people are just hardwired to want to talk about other people, perhaps out of sheer boredom or to start a conversation with colleagues.

No matter how you look at it, gossiping has no value or positive consequences at the office. Gossip can potentially damage people’s reputations and integrity. It can also get in the way of their ascent up the career ladder. If you hear gossip firsthand from these rumourmongers, try to discourage the situation. Do not give it any attention or meaning and try not to spread it around.

The social climber

There’s always one person on the job who seems pretty aggressive when achieving their career goals. Unfortunately, these dreams are not always at par with their skills. These are the office social climbers. They tend to cling to their connections to get ahead at work. They may know specific people in powerful positions or those who wield influence in the company and use these to their advantage to get ahead.

The plagiarist

If you’ve ever been classmates with someone who dared to take credit for your schoolwork, the truth is that the same people still exist when you’re finally working. Yes, these are the plagiarists, the people who can convince your manager and teammates that they were the brains behind an innovative idea someone else developed. They may have a way with words or use their charm to put their credit-grabbing ploy into play.

The bully

Another character that is often present in many workplace environments is the bully. You’d think people mature when they’re finally professionals, but no. Sadly, many individuals still resort to belittling or mocking their colleagues to feel superior at work or to feel better about themselves. These bullies may depend on intimidation or threats to have their way, and as a result, hurt the confidence of their teammates.

Related article: 7 Must-Dos to Maintain Your Diplomacy in Office Politics

How to Deal With Office Politics

It can seem daunting to deal with larger forces at work, but office politics happen. Thankfully, there are simple ways you can work your way around it. Here are some to get you started.

Stay professional.

When you remain objective at work and refrain from taking sides or being biased, you are less prone to involving yourself in conflicts that arise out of office politics. Strive to remain impartial and positive. This way, you are not accused of manipulating or taking advantage of anyone or anything for your benefit. When there are problems in the office, listen to both sides involved and try to give uplifting advice.

Stay focused on your work and on achieving your team’s goals. By doing so, you are also becoming a good role model to your colleagues.

Avoid cliques.

As much as having a go-to group of friends at work helps to ease stressful days and builds camaraderie at work, it can also be detrimental to your performance and attitude in the workplace. They can be bad influences and cause you to think negatively of other people at work. They may also encourage you to work in a certain way that hampers your performance, and their bad habits may also rub off on you.

Learn to be vocal.

There are times when you or your colleagues may be victimised by unfair practices at work. While it may be frightening and nerve-wracking to speak your mind or to expose negative incidents in the office, being vocal can help those in authority to take the necessary actions and to sort out such conflicts. Learn to speak for yourself and others and feel empowered with your courage.

Look for people you can emulate.

While it’s only natural to want to establish relationships and friendships at work, it’s also equally important to gain colleagues who exhibit the values, work ethic, and professionalism that you’d like to emulate. Having such role models in the workplace gives you a constant source of inspiration so that you’re constantly guided on the proper ways to act in certain situations.

Help create a positive environment at work.

Let’s face it, nobody wants to go to work where there’s a constantly toxic or negative atmosphere. But when the environment is one where colleagues feel open to speak up or be themselves, they become more energetic and productive team members. When you exhibit a cheerful aura at work, it not only helps to lighten the mood but also helps establish you as an approachable and friendly colleague anyone can reach out to for help.

Accept the reality of office politics.

No matter where you go, the truth is, office politics is here to stay, and it’s deeply woven into the fabric of the workplace. Where there are any differences in power and rank, it’s highly unlikely that they will ever go away. The sooner you come to terms with the reality of office politics, the sooner you can adapt accordingly and find your way around it.

Related article: Your guide to surviving office politics

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