How to Handle Politics at Workplace

How to Handle Politics at Workplace

Workplace or office politics are actions and behavior involving competition for status or power in a workplace. These actions influence a lot of decisions in a company or organization. Contrary to popular opinion though, workplace politics is not all negative. It does not only involve cutthroat, unethical schemes, workmates fighting each other for a position, or forming cliques and inner circles. It’s not solely about playing dirty, selfish games as some people think.

It is always a part of any company or organization because every workforce is made up of different people with different behaviors and ambitions. This clash of personalities can cause differences in an organization. All employees also have different perspectives regarding issues, and everyone wants their opinion to be heard. Every employee wants to be successful and grow and this is where the issue of power comes in. The hierarchy in a company could cause a power struggle as most, if not all, workers look and work forward to attaining power and there might be some who find it difficult to submit to leadership.


We have already pointed out that politics in a workplace is not only negative. You might be wondering now how positive it can be. As an employee, how do you handle office politics so you can get the best from it? How can you use it to promote your career in an ethical way? How do you detect negative politics so as to avoid differences and full-blown conflicts? How do you win in a healthy competition that provides room for you to thrive? This article is here to provide the best answers to your questions. We have prepared three tried and trusted tips to help you.

  • Develop Soft Skills: The value of interpersonal skills cannot be overstated. Strong soft skills such as emotional intelligence will help you read clues and judge people’s emotions. Develop seemingly little skills like listening very carefully before speaking. This will in turn make your speech tactful and prevent you from saying awkward things or things that can annoy or trigger a colleague. Workplace politics, just like any other form of politics, involves political maneuvers or diplomacy between people, groups, or organizations, especially involving power, influence, or conflict. It is centered on people – how they react to you and your suggestions. Therefore, strong people skills will ensure that your relationship with others is strategic and diplomatic. This goes a long way in boosting other bigger, political related abilities needed for positive workplace politics e.g. your leadership and responsibility skills.
  • Build Your Network: No, networking is not only for job seekers and people building their businesses. Identify and relate with key influencers, those who have power and are at the top of your organization’s chart. Your goal should be to leverage their influence for the development of your career but do this without losing your values or sabotaging the organization you are working for. Some positive political actions you can take include doing the best at your job and helping everyone when you can. People are attracted to people who help them out when they are in need. As an employee, building a viable professional network will also help you grow your personal brand. If you are a team leader or hold a position that others report to, connect with every member of your team. Show that you value their opinions by asking for them before you act and by giving feedback. Use your position to influence others positively.  Be social and try making friends with everyone regardless of their status or position, coworker or CEO. However, do not be a suck-up. It is much more efficient to work hard and garner achievements than to adulate or flatter somebody excessively with the intention of obtaining some personal benefit or favour. When you build a network, your achievements will move your connections to consider or recommend you if an opportunity opens up.


  • Recognize and Avoid Negative Politics: Do not let unruly ambitions erode your values and ethics. Avoid negative politics by all means. But first, you need to recognize them to be able to distance yourself. Do not abuse the power dynamics to get what you want.  Do not take sides when there is a conflict in your workplace. That would only aggravate the issue. Instead, work hard at proffering solutions to resolve issues. Do not try to take credit for someone else’s work. Do not spread rumours or spread things you were told in confidence because you want to stab a colleague in the back. Avoid earning a reputation as a gossip or a suck-up who is always reporting his colleagues’ shortcomings to the boss. If an argument breaks out, resist the urge to win. That would only prolong the matter. Know when to quit. If a competition is organized between teams or individuals where you work, participate equally and fairly. Understand that your opinion will not be taken every time and know-how to react when someone else takes the spotlight. There needs to be room for other people’s voices to be heard. Be alert to other toxic traits like bullying that point to abuse of power and be brave enough to confront it. If you are a supervisor or manager, tackle all negative politics. Investigate and take action immediately. Make sure that everyone is treated fairly and does their share of the work. Do not tolerate any form of negative politics no matter how little it looks. Make sure that employees using power indiscriminately are reprimanded. Be accessible to every member of your team to avoid people going off and forming cliques of their own.
  • Protect Yourself By Taking Actions: If you notice that your workplace has become negatively political, get involved as much as you can. Staying away will not solve the problem. Remember that bad politics is toxic and can be destructive in the workplace. Make friends with everyone but be careful around those who gossip, spread rumours, or try to take credit for other people’s work. Be professional at all times and consider what you tell them even in secret. They may twist your words or tell an entirely different version to put you in trouble. Know what to do and what to avoid.  But if a workplace becomes toxic, you can report to management or consider other options.


Final Thoughts

Workplace politics is not all negative. It doesn’t have to be a do-or-die affair. It however cannot be ignored because it is always present when people with different goals and ambitions come together. We hope this article has pointed out ways for you to use office politics to your advantage. In summary, avoid:

  • Sucking up and making others look bad
  • Letting your want of power erode your values
  • Inciting arguments or flaring them up
  • Spreading rumours and gossip
  • Unequal and unfair participation or treatment of some of your colleagues
  • Toxic traits like bullying a colleague or standing by and watching when a colleague is being bullied, and other forms of negative politicking are mentioned in this article.

When you identify negative politics and avoid it, you make room for your personal and career growth. By developing the needed skills and building a strong network, you use politics positively to pave a smooth road to success for yourself.


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