One of the most socially murky aspects of a workplace is something that is generally invisible to the eye, yet it’s everywhere – office politics. From gossip to cliques and power vacuums, office politics is pervasive and, in the worst of circumstances, can sometimes make doing your job impossible.
What exactly is office politics?
At work there are two power structures, one is the formal power structure which is made up of your bosses and upper management. The other is the informal power structure which can be based on a range of factors such as influence, relationships and even length of service within the company. What accompanies this informal power structure is workplace politics.
Whilst the concept of office politics generally has negative connotations, it’s important to note office politics is not always toxic and it’s also commonplace. Whether you like it or not, office politics will exist in some form wherever you go.
That’s why rather than avoiding workplace politics altogether, a more powerful tool is to learn how to recognise and navigate it.
What are some examples of workplace politics?
Office politics can present itself in a range of ways. This can be in more subtle forms like gossiping and forming cliques to more direct acts like bullying, withholding information or generally making your job unpleasant.
“Taking credit for others’ work, spreading rumours, or forming exclusive alliances to advance personal agendas are all examples of this,” explains Cayla Dengate, Career Expert at LinkedIn.
“Fostering a positive and supportive workplace will ultimately benefit all, so to navigate such situations it’s crucial to focus on your own contributions, maintain open communication, and build a reputation for collaboration rather than competition.”
How can you navigate office politics?
Whilst at times, workplace politics is inescapable, Cayla says that focusing on acting with integrity is key. This can mean staying neutral in disagreements and promoting yourself as a force of positivity in the workplace.
“Office politics definitely doesn’t get you very far in the long run. If you are building a long-term career, become known as the person who acts with integrity and doesn’t engage in workplace politics
“That means avoiding gossip and treating everyone in the team with respect and kindness. This will not only provide relief from the unnecessary stress of workplace politics but also allow you to hone in on your skills and focus on your personal and professional growth and development.”
How to stop worrying about work
Even if you’ve mastered how to navigate office politics, you may still find that the reverberations of it are affecting you.
“Maintaining a good work-life balance is key when dealing with office politics. If your workday is sapping your emotional energy, it’s all the more important to log off on time and make room for the things that recharge you and allow you to show up focused and energised,” says Cayla.
“Whether it’s going for a jog, talking to a friend, or spending time with your family, allow yourself to disconnect from your workplace and the politics that may come with it and refocus your energy on positive aspects of your life.”
For those times that you’re needing to offset worry when you’re in the office you can always try practising mindfulness.