Five tips to avoid getting caught up in harmful office politics

Author: Hanan Nagi | Date: 9 Nov 2016

Hanan Nagi, founder of HNI Training & Coaching, explains how to be the perfect professional at work

Hanan NagiHow many times have you found yourself in the middle of uncomfortable gossip at work, or stuck in a rut because you were part of the 'other side?’
 
An increasing number of employees rank workplace politics as a major obstacle in the way to professional success. Whether we like it or not it, office politics always has been, and will continue to be, a fact of life – and the first step to beating it is accepting its presence.
 
So what should you do to avoid getting caught up in office politics on a frequent basis?
 
  1. Don’t fall for the ‘in confidence’ line – No matter who says it and what they say, don’t believe you are the only one privy to this information. Similarly, don’t reveal something that you shouldn’t just because you said it ‘in confidence’ – it’s bound to get out sooner or later.

  2. When in Rome, don’t do as the Romans do – Just because someone did or said something nasty, don’t respond with the same vehemence and anger, because that means you just joined the bandwagon. If you’re not on either side and don’t want to be, keep your cool and stay out of the matter.

  3. Become a smart observer but don’t get carried away – Detach yourself from the situation and take an observer’s seat. Now relax and look at the situation from a different perspective. Things will become clearer; you will begin to uncover who is doing what, who is following who, and what goal each person is pursuing – whether it is promotion, flexibility or just more control.

  4. Focus your energy on yourself – When everyone else seems busy taking sides, playing tricks and wasting time, get your act straight by making yourself more useful. The best investment you can ever make is in your own abilities and knowledge, so get learning.

  5. Don’t be afraid to mingle – Do not avoid or be intimidated by politically powerful people in the organisation. On the contrary, make an effort to get to know them; they may share many of the conflicting emotions you are experiencing. Build healthy relationships beyond work with people from multiple networks. Be the person everyone likes and respects, and whose contribution is valued.
 
Remember, all professional relationships must be built on mutual respect – so avoid meaningless flattery. Be friendly with all employees and managers, at every level of the organisation. Your competence should outlast changes in teams and structures. This is where there is scope for career growth beyond the politics.
 
Hanan Nagi is founder and CEO of HNI Training & Coaching, a Dubai-based training consultancy.