Career success

The Essential Guide To Survive (Or Win At) Office Politics And Gossip

This quick guide is in two parts: Part 1 covers the politics part, and part 2 covers gossip


Part 1: Things to know about surviving office politics


1. Seven approaches that office politicians adopt:

- Identify the stakeholders, those who have commitment to act in a particular way.

- Keep the stakeholders comfortable: Find their comfort zones- concentrating on behavior, values, attitudes, fears and drives that the individuals will accept, tolerate and manage.

- Fit the image: Work on the comfort zones and align their image to that of the people with power.

- Use the network: Identify the interest groups and people of influence.

- Enter the network: Identify the gatekeepers, adhere to the norms.

- Make deals: Agree to support other people where this is of mutual benefit.

- Withhold and withdraw: Withhold information as appropriate and withdraw judiciously when the going gets rough.


(Source: Andrew Kakabadse)


2. Before you put forth your ideas/solutions/proposals, first test opinion and find out how other people may react.


Be aware of the politics in the office (necessary for survival):

- know how ‘things are done around here’

- know how decisions are made, including the less obvious factors that are likely to affect decisions

- know where the power base is in the company – who makes the running; who are the people who count when decisions are taken

- being aware of what is going on behind the scenes

- knowing the issues that gets everyone in the office all worked up

- know who is a rising star; whose reputation is fading

- Know the 'hidden agendas’ (see above) – try to understand what people are really getting at, and why

You can get the answers for above by answering this: Where are they coming from?’

- Know what other people are thinking and seeking

- Know the 'interest groups': network, network, network


3. What happens when the office politics goes too far:

- Back-biting

- Buck-passing

- Secret meetings and hidden decisions

- Fights between people and departments

- Arguing via memo, emails, etc, showing signs of distrust

- Snide comments and criticisms are common

- Excessive and counter-productive lobbying

- The formation of cabals/cliques who plot all the time instead of working


4. To recognize enemies at the workplace


The telltale signs include:

- It’s taking longer for your calls to be returned.

- People you used to get appointments to see easily now are often busy.

- People greet you with “How are you doing these days, code for seeing if you know your days are numbered.

- Many people are using the same metaphors about you.

- At parties, the boss’s spouse barely glances at you.

- Other people are unusually concerned about your well-being.

Source: 'Career Warfare' by David Alessandro


5. To know about true motives of a colleague:

When talking to a colleague about work, stop listening...all you need to do is catch the adjectives the talker uses. Then simply repeat the adjective as a question. For example, 'bad?'


Keep doing this and soon you might reach to the agenda behind the agenda- why the talker is saying all this.


6. To win as an office politician:

…Plot. Gather evidence. Read You colleagues. Describe lines of power and patronage in your workplace. Insinuate your way into courts. Gather your courtiers. Reward useful spies by including them in your plans..


(Source: 'The Way of the Rat- A Survival guide to office politics', by Joep P M Schrijvers)


7. Best time to start drama: Monday afternoon. (you get five days to sort it out)

Worst time to start drama: Friday afternoon.(will kill your weekend)

- Anonymous


8. Dealing with the competition

Identify your competitors (for that raise/promotion) and try to do better work, better talking and better playing. And, take your non-competitors in your side.


9. How good companies try to minimize office politics

By making the company very open and transparent- all major issues are discussed in open meetings. All major decisions are discussed at all levels before a final verdict is reached. Promotions, rewards and recognitions are done by explaining the reasons in detail (e.g. 'Jane got the points for helping out in Project X')


10. How to survive the politics


First, know this: You have to engage in office politics to survive office politics. You don't have to play the game, but just be aware of things around you.


Do office politics the right way: Work at getting the best opportunities to learn and grow at work- the best projects, training, and assignments to build skills and market value.

(Source: 'Brazen Careerist', by Penelope Trunk)


- Observe (see above). Observe a lot.


- Be discreet with what you observe, and act true to your strengths and value, as much as you can.


- Sometimes, just stay quiet, let the situation play out, when you know your bases are covered- e.g. The boss has your back, knowing the value of your work.


- Document the proof: Satisfy yourself (or later, may be others) if you suspect politics at play.


- Communicate often and clearly: Keep the relevant people in the loop at all times- regular updates, project performance numbers, or briefings of any kind. But communicate to relevant only. Don't choose 'send to all'.


- Know the 'drama people' early on: The people most likely to cause drama. You will find them after you have patiently observed the surrounding for a while. Once you know them, you will adjust your behavior and approach at work appropriately.


- Disclose at your own risk: Be sure that most things you say 'in confidence' will get out, even if the recepient of the privileged information is a 'friend'.


- Don't come off as a selfish person: Share the credit whenever it is due, accept 'give and take' is basis of networking.


- Network inside the company: Have some allies (colleagues, mentors, boss)- Just be valuable to the right people. Be helpful.


- Use assertive communication style to deal with people's politically motivated behavior: When you find a colleague trying to undermine your work by talking down your work in front of others, or sabotaging your relations etc, confront and ask directly, 'If you have any problems with my approach/project/decision, can you please explain them to me?' Whatever their response, the idea with this approach is to bring the issue out in the open.


Be a straight arrow.


- Be seen doing valuable stuff.


Part 2: Five things to know about surviving office gossip


- Learn how to deflect effortlessly: Where you put the task of resolving the issue (always focus on the underlying issue) raised back at the person who wants to know (the gossip)

For example, when someone asks some information about a colleague, deflect and say, 'Sorry, I read only TMZ.'


- Another style of deflection, this time being assertive: 'Person X has been supportive for me.'


- Know who the chief gossip is at your workplace.


- The golden gossip rule: Don’t say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face.


- Think thrice before going over the boss's head. Bosses take loyalty very seriously. Even if fully explained about why you went over the boss's head and talked stuff, things will be never be the same again.


Thank you for reading.
This guide is from The Success Manual, which contains 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life.  Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.