Office politics is a term that refers to the way an office runs, and how people tend to work together based on their job responsibilities and hierarchy. Every office has a distinct office culture that influences the ways people advance, how everyone is treated, and how happy the employees are.
There are two groups of people you will interact with at work: your managers/boss, and your co-workers. Negotiating many different personalities and work agendas can be like walking through a mine field, but the tips below will help you survive your days at work unharmed.
Your relationship to your boss is central to your success in the workplace; demonstrating to him/her that you are capable and responsible is the single-most important thing you can do as employee. The best way to promote a good working relationship with your boss is through good communication.
1. Make sure you understand what your boss wants, and ask questions if you are confused. Understand your work assignments before you begin working on them- ask as many questions as you have and never pretend to understand the task when you don’t. Take notes while your boss is giving directions so you have something to reference when you begin the work. Ask “When do you need this?” every time you are given an assignment. Knowing when work is due will help you prioritize tasks and complete work on-time.
If you have minimal time with your boss, you may be able to get direction by looking at similar work done in the past, or by asking for feedback from co-workers you trust. And, if you are ever unsure about an assignment after you have started it, take the time to go back to your boss for clarification while you still have time to change course.
2. Ask for feedback on your work.
Listen when your boss tells you what you did well, and what you can improve upon. The best way to impress your boss is to learn what s/he looks for in work, and act accordingly. Maybe s/he wants work done fast, even if it’s not perfect. Or, maybe s/he is obsessive about details and only wants to see final drafts, after they are spellchecked and formatted. Being aware of your boss’s preferences is critical for doing well on the job.
3. Don’t complain.
Everyone has bad days, and there is nothing wrong with venting once in a while. But avoid bringing every problem you encounter to your boss- regardless of how much sympathy you deserve. Every boss wants employees that can problem-solve and be flexible in difficult situations.
4. Check in.
It’s a good idea for you to initiate conversations with your boss about the work you’re doing. It keeps him/her in the loop on what’s on your plate, and gives you an opening to ask for direction or support when you need it.
It is very rare to like all the people you work with. Each of us has a different style of communication, and different preferences for how we do work. Getting along with co-workers requires patience, consideration, and a lot of compromise, and some days are going to be easier than others. When dealing with co-workers, remember these tips of interaction in the office.
1. You are rarely alone.
Even if you think no one heard you raise your voice and act rudely to the office manager, they did. And even worse, the ones who heard it likely talked about the interaction later with other people in the office. Being rude to a co-worker, even one time, looks bad for you. Keep your temper in check.
2. People gossip.
It is just a fact of life that we talk about each other. Participating in gossip is an easy trap to fall into, but avoid it at work at all costs. Go home and tell your family or other friends about the crazy outfit Sue from accounting wore- but don’t breathe a word of it at work. It’s likely to get back to her, and it makes you look petty.
3. Don’t complain about your boss.
Spies are everywhere, and the bad things you say could easily get back to your manager. Protect yourself- don’t say anything and don’t join in when others do.
4. Don’t sink to anyone else’s level.
Your co-workers may handle conflict with you in unprofessional ways. No matter what someone else says or does to you, remember that you will get nowhere by repeating the act against them. Take the high road- walk away from conflict, and try to talk problems through when you and your co-worker are less upset. Speak calmly and rationally no matter what someone else says to you. And if you feel that a conflict is more than you can handle through calm discussion, report your concern to Human Resources.