Office Politics – Cliques and Competition
Office politics can be a crazy crazy part of working life that just can’t be avoided. Ok, that may be a little dramatic, but let’s just say… office life ain’t always a walk in the park.
Let’s start off with replacing the word ‘office’ with ‘playground’ and then we’ve got an accurate description of what you can expect from office life. The term office politics comes with immediate negative connotations, but never fear it’s not really something you need to worry too much about – more, know that it’s a thing and learn how to deal with situations as best you can. You managed to tackle playground antics as a mini-you at school, so now it’ll be easy peasy!
Any fans of ‘The Office’ out there? Well luckily I (and most) haven’t dealt with that level of madness and I’m yet to find my stapler trapped in jelly! But, there are a few tricky situations that you might encounter in the office. So, here are my thoughts on how you can deal with them without compromising your happiness and professionalism.
First couple of the months on the job, you’re out to please, ready to impress, keen as a bean, but attempting to find the balance between office swot and helpful cool cucumber. Just like the playground, there are cliques in the office. Cliques that’ll take a while to breakdown, but the best advice is to not stress about breaking these boundaries – all you need to do is be nice and friendly and eventually you will build people’s trust and make friends.
It’s the butter that sticks the office and the politics together. You will find, unsurprisingly, that the biggest competition comes from those at a similar hierarchical level to you. But, *spoiler alert* those people aren’t those that’ll be making the decisions on promotions or your progress through the business. Remember that.
It’s also here where a weird dynamic comes in. Whilst your closest co-workers (usually those at a similar level in the pecking order) can be those most competitive with you, they’re also likely to be your closest workplace pals. So how do I deal with that nightmare of a situation I hear you ask?! Well guess what, don’t play the game! Concentrate on what you want to do, build your workplace friendships and do your very best not to get worked up.
There will be times when you’ll feel like wringing you colleagues neck because for instance, your fantastic new idea (one so good that you feel you deserve a medal) that you’ve mentioned to one colleague, suddenly gets unceremoniously robbed and passed on as their idea (nope, not bitter at all me). Advice – don’t wring their neck and channel the cool cucumber mind-set. Situations like these are the ones you learn from.
Taking this ‘idea borrowing’ as an example – firstly, don’t worry, more ideas will come and secondly, next time you could just write down all your thoughts and suggestions on the idea and send an email to all of your team, or put it forward in a meeting.
Don’t stress. Just learn
Learn from situations rather than dwelling on them. The inevitable fact of an office environment is that, from time to time situations will crop up that’ll really grind your gears. How can it not, when you spend more time with your colleagues than your friends and family at home?!
The key is not to find individual solutions for every problem. It’s to become a master at learning how people work… What works? What doesn’t? A skill that’ll only serve in your favour as you look to move through the company – if you can learn what makes people tick, you’ll smash office life out the park!
Don’t forget the purpose and benefits of reviews – always a great moment to speak about something that’s bothering you (in any aspect of your work). I’ve always found it handy to write down when I think something isn’t quite right, if it isn’t easy to air it then and there. That way, when a review is on the horizon I have a list I can go through to pick out the key issues and then discard anything that’s just a little petty. So, if you’ve been on the hunt for a new motto here you are: ‘Don’t be petty, be professional’.
Ultimately you will learn a lot more about people by having to deal with the difficult ones – in and outside of work! If it were always plain sailing at work, you wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn more about yourself and learn how to manage people and difficult situations.
By taking on tricky situations in a professional manner and being civil with anyone who rubs you up the wrong way, you can focus on your own learning and career progression. Office life is your oyster (as the saying goes…), so go out and embrace it! Oh – and make sure you let us know if anyone puts your stapler in jelly!
And finally,If you’re really struggling with someone at work, remember there’s a difference between a clash in personality and bullying. If you feel like you’re being victimised, you mustn’t be afraid to speak about it, or ask for help. The charity Mind gives practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.
Works at a Marketing Agency in London | @geveritt24
Studied Geography at Manchester Uni
Figuring out life at 25 and having a ball