How to Navigate Office Politics

By March 22, 2018 June 21st, 2023 Common Business Problems

Last Updated on June 21, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck

Navigating office politics is an unavoidable part of working with your colleagues. Unfortunately, one wrong move and you could find yourself the target of drama—or worse, participating in it.

Learning how to navigate office politics is necessary if you want your business and career to thrive.

A cartoon shows two businessmen shaking hands with knives behind their back. This illustrates How to Navigate Office Politics

Here are 4 of my best tips for dealing with office politics among coworkers.  

1. Clear up the confusion with new employees.

Often, office politics come into play when someone feels slighted, or the hierarchy of authority is not respected, but new employees can usually do these things by accident. Whenever anyone starts at your organization, be sure they know exactly who they’re reporting to and who to ask if they have any questions.

This is also an excellent time to introduce a new employee to the office culture. As Forbes says, it’s essential to note any unwritten rules your company has: for example, are you expected to stay until your work is done, even if it means working overtime? Making these aspects of your office culture clear will prevent any accidental offenses.

Taking a new employee under your wing and explaining the ins and outs of the office will go a long way toward eliminating confusion and misunderstandings right from the start. This will also help your new employee figure out how to navigate office politics in your particular organization.

2. Emphasize that you’re a team.

Healthy competition is high in the workplace, but too often, employees can let their competitive edge push them toward drama. Competition should never be so fierce that different departments have to fight for resources, or employees continuously try to undermine each other to make themselves look better.

It would help if you emphasized that you’re all a team and that even the different departments work together towards a common goal. This should be evident in your leadership style: be fair with the distribution of resources, and don’t let anyone feel like you’re playing favorites. Regular team-building activities can help boost morale and encourage teamwork.

3. Institute a no-gossip policy.

Gossip can bring other employees down, especially if someone is gunning for their job. Although you can’t legally forbid the usual griping and complaints that people sometimes have about their jobs, you can institute a policy that bans harmful or malicious gossip in the workplace.

It’s a team effort to make this a reality, but everyone benefits from working in an environment where they don’t need to fear people talking about them behind their backs. Just be sure your policy doesn’t violate the National Labor Relations Act: the Society for Human Resource Management has a helpful article about crafting your office’s no-gossip policy.

4. Model the behavior you want to see.

The best way to avoid drama and deal with office politics is to show that you don’t condone that behavior. As I’ve written, learning to handle conflict is a crucial step in your career. If someone comes to you to gossip about another employee, it’s up to you not to engage.

Instead, demonstrate the office culture you want to see with your actions. The easiest way to figure out how to navigate office politics is only to model the behavior you’d want your coworkers to exhibit. Once they know they can’t come to you as a source of gossip, they’ll take a hint. You have to lead by example to gain your employees’ trust.

Learning how to navigate office politics is an ongoing process. Please fill out my contact form for a complimentary coaching session so we can work out a plan for your business.

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