Office politics got you down?

Office politics is a fact of life. The key is in finding a constructive way to deal with it.

5 ways to deal with politics in the workplace.

For many, office politics is a part of life. Unfortunately, politicking is also the single biggest cause of stress in the workplace.

According to a 2012 survey by global recruitment consultancy group Robert Walters, 32 per cent of respondents had a falling out with a colleague because of office politics, while 66 per cent believed it’s unfair that people succeed at work because they engage in office politicking.

“There is a lot more competition today between people vying for senior roles within organisations,” says executive leadership coach Josie Thomson, whose client list includes Macquarie Bank, Coles Myer and Origin Energy.

“Not too long ago, people earned roles based on tenure but these days it doesn’t work like that. So the competition is fierce and office politics plays a big role.”

If office politics are unavoidable, an employee’s best bet is to make the best of tough situations. Below are five ways to ensure politicking doesn’t get the best of you.

Avoid it

Try to stay out of office politics altogether, especially if the topic du jure doesn’t affect your current role. This will ensure you don’t come across as a person who interferes with other people’s business or be seen as someone who likes to cause a problem.

“Most instances of office politics are a waste of time and energy,” says Tiffany Quinlan, HR director at recruitment agency Randstad.

“If you do your job to the best of your ability, take constructive feedback and continue to develop, it is far more conducive to high levels of productivity and cohesion [than politicking].”

Choose battles wisely

Before engaging in office politics, decide whether it’s worth the risk of promoting a personal cause. Also be aware of any potential risks that might arise in the future if you choose to engage in office politics and avoid saying anything about a colleague that you wouldn’t say to his or her face. 

“You don’t know where these individuals will end up in their careers, so you really need to be mindful of the need for an immediate win versus the longer term consequences of those decisions,” Thomson says.


Whenever possible, try to think about a win-win scenario for all parties or at the very least be willing to compromise on the issue. This is a good way to gain a reputation as someone who solves problems and has good negotiation skills.

Find an influencer

On some occasions, office politics is the easiest way to get a point of view across, especially if other people agree with the idea. Quinlan suggests finding an influencer in your organisation with whom you can share the idea.

“Many organisations will have personalities that drive the office culture, so identify those who have a positive effect on the organisation and share messages and ideas with them,” Quinlan says. 

Start a favour bank

Doing a colleague a favour is a good way of being seen as a team player, but don’t let it become a one-sided activity. Building up a list of people who “owe you one” can be a forward-thinking strategy and can be helpful later on in a career.

When asking a colleague for something in return, gently remind them of the previous good deed and ask if they can return the favour. If they refuse, keep this in mind before going out of your way to help them in the future.

October 2021
October 2021

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