how to avoid office drama and engaging in office politics

As the employee count climbs, office politics become a necessary evil. Though it can be frustrating at the time, office politics are necessary to keep order at large organizations. A clear hierarchy is necessary to streamline tasks and ensure the right people stay informed when important decisions are being made. It’s when office politics devolve into petty competition and one-upmanship that a problem develops. If you’re aiming to avoid office drama (and why wouldn’t you?) keep these handy rules in mind.

avoid office drama and office politics

steer clear of gossip

Gossip is often at the root of office drama. And as much as we may try not to, we’ve all done it. We’re social creatures. It’s human nature to want to talk about what’s happening in our lives. So it’s easy to understand the temptation of discussing why Michelle was fired, or how Barry got promoted when he wasn’t qualified, or why you heard yelling coming from Alex’s office. But more often than not, speculation is wrong. Yet, we convince ourselves that we’ve got the situation figured out, and make assumptions based on what we think we know.

Total avoidance isn’t realistic. You’re going to hear things whether you want to or not. If you recognize that the conversation veering toward a subject that should be off-limits, gently steer the conversation to another subject. If that doesn’t work, calmly retract yourself from the situation, and say you don’t feel comfortable discussing the issue.

seek out facts, not speculation

Facts are the antidote to office speculation. If you’ve ever seen a sitcom you know how spectacularly a situation can get out of hand when someone acts on misinformation. While Chandler and Monica might be able to resolve their issues in 22 minutes, that’s not how it works in real life. A misunderstanding can have long-lasting consequences in the workplace.

We only need to look as far as the recent fake news epidemic to see how detrimental speculation and lies can be. Always ask yourself, ‘how do I know this?’ If your only source of information is something a coworker told you or an assumption, think twice about whether or not it’s true. If you’re not sure, ask for clarification. It never hurt to have a better understanding of the situation.

choose your office friends wisely

You spend 8 hours a day with your coworkers. That’s probably more time than you spend with most of your other friends combined. Developing friendships at work is imperative to enjoying your work and being a healthy and productive member of the team. Just like friends outside of your job, work friends should share your values, celebrate successes with you, and commiserate when things go wrong. If the focus of your friendship is complaining or gossiping about others in the office, be wary.

don’t let winning be your only priority

Office drama often revolves around one-upmanship. This kind of office culture can quickly become toxic and lead to rivalries and office drama. While there’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition to boost your team’s overall output, if winning becomes the sole focus of your workday, there’s the risk of creating a dangerous environment where everyone feels pitted against one another rather than encouraged to work together. Individual accomplishment is important, but so is team building and recognizing everyone’s contribution to the greater whole.

stop holding grudges

Mistakes happen. If coworkers make critical errors they absolutely need to be dealt with. However, that’s up to your manager to handle. Once the issue has been resolved, put it to bed for good. Constantly reminding coworkers about that time they screwed up is unproductive. Steve knows he made a vital budgeting error. It was discussed extensively at the time and he understands it wasn’t his finest hour. He’s working hard to ensure it never reoccurs. Bringing it up repeatedly and holding it over his head adds nothing of value to the conversation. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong or whose fault it was, focus on what can be improved going forward.  

when in doubt, give yourself (and others) breathing room

Don’t react in the heat of the moment. When you’re angry, upset or surprised, it’s all too easy to fire off a heated response that serves no one, least of all you. Yes, it's unfair that your boss asked you to complete an unexpected report by end of day when, ordinarily, it would take a week. Unfortunately for you, reacting badly to the poorly handled request won’t make the report go away. Take a moment to step back, breathe deeply, and respond like a mature professional. With a little distance, you’ll be able to think rationally and respond in kind. If the deadline is truly impossible, explain why, providing a calm, reasonable rationale rather than a pointed finger.

treat others the way you want to be treated

We all know the golden rule: treat others as you wish to be treated. Your mom drilled it into your head from the moment you could talk. And wouldn’t you know it, she was right. It’s good advice to follow whether you’re 5 or 55. Treat others with respect, and they’re more likely to treat you with respect in return. Forming strong professional relationships is all about creating an atmosphere where everyone is respectful and respected. Follow this rule, and well, you’re golden.

A calm, rational office environment where everyone gets along makes everyone’s workday more pleasant. Follow these measures to avoid office drama and we assure you that you’ll feel less stressed and happier at work.

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