5 Ways to Navigate Office Politics

April 15, 2016 Nicole Klemp


Not sure if you’ve heard or not, but it’s a presidential election year. On TV, social media, at the grocery store, all anyone can seem to talk about is this insane political race. And we can’t get enough of it — it’s like a new reality show that the entire world is watching, except instead of someone getting engaged at the end or losing a bunch of weight, they will actually become the new leader of the free world.

But the race for the White House aside, there may be some other politics that you find yourself involved in that have nothing to do with running for office; they’re the ones happening in your office. Office politics may not always be pretty, but they are a reality that most of us have to deal with sometimes in our career. So how can you navigate the political climate in your career? Here are 5 suggestions for keeping your nose clean when office politics heat up:

  1. Run a clean campaign

Whether we like it or not, most of us have to participate in (or get sucked into) office politics at some point. If you do, there are ways to “play the game” without tarnishing your reputation (or worse). According to the Harvard Business Review, companies are political organizations by nature. So if you want to make an impact in your job, you need to learn how to navigate the politics — without playing dirty. Avoid the temptation to complain to coworkers about things (or people) you’re unhappy with. If there is something going on within the organization that you disagree with, talk to your supervisor. Ifthey are the problem, then go above or around them; just make sure you follow company rules and do your due diligence. And always have good research and documentation to back up your claims or ideas.

  1. Be a lobbyist — for yourself

Nobody can run a better campaign for you than you. Promote your importance to the organization and don’t be afraid to show off your accomplishments. Just like politicians like to brag about their military experience or voting records, you should make sure colleagues and managers understand your interests, talents, and skill set. Being vocal about your contributions can save them from being questioned later on.

  1. Watch what you say (and who you say it to)

Unfortunately there will always be a few people that play a little dirty to get ahead — and it may not always be the people you expect. It’s great to have friendships at work and to socialize with coworkers outside of the office, but don’t take that as a free pass to gossip about others or to start spilling the beans on things you may or may not be frustrated about. You never know when something you said in confidence will pop up suddenly down the road when that information benefits the person you told it to. Keep work conversations light and politically correct.

  1. Don’t be a flip-flopper

We see it all the time in politics; a candidate claims a certain stance on an issue one day, then changes it the next. Save yourself the trouble by being completely honest about things from the get-go. If someone asks you to share your thoughts on something in a meeting, make sure you express yourtruefeelings, even if it is uncomfortable or awkward. If you take the easy way out and say something is fine when it’s not, you will regret it later. Positive changes cannot be made when nobody stands up to advocate for them.

  1. Avoid the politics completely

The most foolproof way to keep from getting burned by office politics is to avoid them whenever possible. Like Liz Ryan said in Forbes, “The more you rise above it and stay out of the fray, the better for all concerned.” Certainly stick up for yourself if something involves you directly, but if you hear gossip or get pulled into something that doesn’t affect you or your job, it’s best to just stay out of it. Just repeat after me: Not my circus, not my monkeys.



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