If you have ever worked anywhere, in a large corporation or a “Mom and Pop” shop, you know that there is no escape from the dreaded “Office Politics.” It may happen in the breakroom, the boardroom or the bathroom, but you can rest assured, it will happen. No one claims to like it, but it would seem that everyone, at some point, participates in it. In fact, there may just be no way of getting around it. Learning to survive office politics then, would seem like an important thing to do. Identifying those around you who participate regularly in this behavior could save you a lot of grief. Here’s a look at some typical incarnations of these office politicos and suggestions on how to deal with them:
You may not be able to spot Bob right away, because he may appear to be benevolent and friendly on the surface. Underneath, however, Bob is waiting for his opportunity. Bob will shake his head and agree how terrible things are while he’s storing away your comments to pass on to your boss or coworkers. Rule of thumb, keep your comments or problems to yourself. If you’re having difficulties with your boss or a coworker, speak to them privately, one on one, and work out your differences.
You know Geoffrey, he is always talking about someone or something. He can’t help himself. Any information he gets, about anything, will end up as a topic of conversation. In order to keep yourself safe from Geoffrey, you must remember not to share things that are important or personal. At least, not those things that you want to be kept private. Also, see “Backstabber Bob,” above.
Suzy is the type that rarely engages in break room conversations or gossip sessions but listens carefully and remembers what she hears. She may not be sitting there taking notes but you’ll be surprised when you hear your words coming from one of Suzy’s best friends. Again, be aware that the work place is for work. Yes, you make friends at work but the idea is to spend your time doing your job and getting things done, not talking about others.
Now Cathy is easy to spot; you’ll probably hear her before you see her. It’s easy to fall into the trap of agreeing with Cathy and doing some complaining of your own, but it is a trap. Toxic people like Cathy infect others around them with their complaining and griping and turn a relatively benign office into a seething pot of controversy. Don’t let this happen to you. Sometimes it’s just better to keep your head down, focus on your work and make it through another day.
There are times when it’s appropriate to get involved and make your opinions known. Pick your spots and know your limits. Be smart about who you tell things to. Get the “lay of the land” and find out “who’s who” before you start shooting your mouth off and end up shooting yourself in the foot instead.
Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago. Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance. He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”