SURVIVING OFFICE POLITICS.

We’ve all had our share of experiencing office gossip. It’s a funny environment really but the truth is, despite trying to avoid the politics at your workplace and ignoring what is happening around you, you will fall into it. 

There will always be a co-worker in the office who has that many faces they should have been a Greek God, someone who is so far up the bosses arse they might as well have a bed and TV installed up there and of course, the ‘goody two shoes’ who everyone hates because they’re actually just doing what they get paid for.

Whilst research shows that office gossip can be healthy (and inevitable), the line can easily be crossed. You might think what you’re saying is harmless chitchat, but idle speculation about your company’s business, or worse, your colleagues’ personal lives, can end up fanning the flames of baseless rumours that can damage not only the people around you, but your company – and your own career. And it also makes you a massive arsehole.

And then you get managers who play office politics as if it’s a tennis game. Watching you and your co-workers fight over opportunities for their own entertainment, already knowing who they’re going to promote. And if they upset someone, at least they’ll get their fix of gossip about it whilst sitting in their Ivory tower. Plus, it doesn’t matter how much work you put in, how long you’ve been there or how often you cry on the way home because you genuinely care, they don’t. And you are replaceable. 

If you are stuck in a stressful, political workplace then here are some simple tricks to help you cope, be happier, and switch off easier after 5pm.

  1. FIND YOUR PEOPLE. You spend a good deal of time at work so it’s natural to form friendships. When it comes to dealing with difficult people at work, it’s always good to have someone on your side. This doesn’t mean you’re building an army to fight dirty, but rather finding people to get along with who can support your career and see the bigger picture. Your people are there to vent with and release some of the stress that builds up in an office environment. Share information sparingly until you are sure that you have built up a level of trust. Knowing you have a team beside you makes dealing with the everyday politics a bit easier.
  2. NEUTRALISE THE NEGATIVES. If you’re fed up about gossipers in the office always attacking the same person, make a point to throw a positive comment in there about the victim. It isn’t nearly as much fun to spread negative news if its spoiled by a complimentary phrase and this should change the course of the conversation. It’s also important to be the change you want to see. A lot of this shit arises when a group of workers are concerned about a particular problem, or a change in the way you’ve been told to work. Instead of joining in with the complaining, simply ask the group for solutions and make a list. You will always get those who can’t think of anything positive to say, and the boss might not go along with whatever solution you’ve thought of, but the exercise of focusing on solutions will take away the urge to gossip.
  3. HAVE YOUR OWN BACK. This doesn’t mean you can’t trust anyone in your workplace but know the limits of trusting. The office environment is competitive and everyone is working for their own motives. Don’t let someone hold imprecise information on you that could hinder your advancement. Telling everyone at your workplace about your personal and social life is not a good idea and you should consider implementing a ‘work friends’ privacy setting on social media. Some people are so boring, they might find your drunken, spewing up in a bin 2012 night out pictures the highlight of their day and show your boss one afternoon to win brownie points about how unprofessional you look.
  4. BE BUSY. Don’t get drawn into the drama. You were employed to perform certain duties that I’m sure you’re all really good at. The people that like to gossip want attention. If you’re delving into your work (and making this very obvious) you can’t be available to appreciate their latest tales. Switch off and ignore or wear earphones when you’re not even playing music if you have to.
  5. BE DIRECT. Running to someone higher to clear up the mess can make things worse sometimes, unless it really is bad. But, small gossip, can make others gossip that you’re being gossiped about, and then everyone knows and is gossiping about it! THEN the so called gossiper can’t believe you’ve gossiped with your manager about how upset you are that they’ve gossiped about you, and they’ve found out because your manager and their manager has had a little gossip about it, and they’ve been told off for gossiping! Wow. What a headache that was! My advice is to just be direct. There’s a way of confronting people and it can be done in a professional manner. Focus on the issue and the behaviour rather than on the person. Instead of telling them how bad of a person they are for spreading untrue shit about you, let them know that you are concerned about the things you’ve heard, arm yourself with the facts and tell them that you want it to stop. If you make your feelings and facts known to them and the other people ear wigging, they will think twice about it next time. You have to draw your own boundaries to get respect from your colleagues.

It’s really important to remember that if someone is willing to talk to you about someone, then they’re willing to talk and gossip to someone about you. Office politics can be really draining but you have to stand up for yourself if you really love your job and can see yourself staying there. There is work and then there is wellbeing. Wellbeing has to come first. You and your skills will be appreciated somewhere else if you’re coming home every day unhappy.

If none of the above make your day any better, you should always contact HR, or an employment support line and if you still don’t feel like you’re being taken seriously or getting anywhere, the organisation you work for will sadly never change and its time to move on. But it will be for the better, I promise.

Thanks for reading x 

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