Ever work in an office where just about everyone on staff acts like they’re appearing in a community theater version of Game of Thrones? Some offices are steeped in office politics, with coworkers throwing each other under the bus left and right, just to get ahead. Lying, manipulating, stealing ideas — in some offices, that’s just par for the course. But, what if it’s not your style?
It can be pretty hard to cope when you’re the nice person in a sea of jerks. But of course, you’d still like to get ahead at work, even if you’re not willing to betray your colleagues in order to do it. These tips can help.
1. Reject the pressure to conform to negative aspects of the culture.
You shouldn’t feel that you have to participate in negativity, even if it’s baked into the culture. If you’re one of the good guys, this probably isn’t the first time that you’ve stood apart from the crowd. Sure, you see how others are using the system to get ahead. But, that doesn’t mean that’s the only way to go about getting what you want.
First and foremost, commit to being your kind and ethical self. You’ll relax and relinquish some tension once you’ve firmly decided you will not stoop to that level. You will make your own course. Remind yourself that you’ll be able to get ahead by doing things a little differently.
Negative office politics not your style? You can still get ahead by doing things your way.
There are ways to advance your own agenda, and your own career, without participating in negative office politics. Being socially astute about how things work around your office (how folks get assigned to great projects, or how they get promoted, for example) is important.
You can network and influence others without being underhanded. In fact, coming off as sincere, ethical and direct should actually improve your professional reputation. Don’t allow fear to stop you from engaging on the right side of things.
3. Keep your friends close.
There are a lot of good reasons for developing friendships at work. You’ll feel more comfortable, happier even, if you have people around who understand what you go through at work and who support you. It might help to talk about some of the shadier sides of your office’s politics with your work pals, but tread lightly. There is a fine line between blowing off steam and participating in the gossip yourself.
Instead, be the good guy, and simply have fun with your friends. Support and encourage each other. Set a positive example for the rest of the office to follow. Or, at least, create a little safe haven for yourself with your friends amidst all the madness.
You don’t have to participate in dirty office politics to get ahead at work. But, you shouldn’t sell yourself short either. Sometimes, nice guys and gals worry about outshining others so they dim their light a little. Don’t do that. Instead, be unashamedly awesome at your job — intimidatingly so. And, be nice, too. This is one surefire way to stand out, while also having a positive impact, in any office.
5. Lead by example.
Company culture, like any culture, is always moving and changing. Instead of reacting to it, realize that you have the power to influence those around you. In fact, you’re probably more influential than you think. Focus on shifting your company’s culture from the inside, even if only in some small way, through leading by example. The good old Golden Rule is actually pretty powerful. What we put out into the world tends to come back around to us. Play the office political game in a way that feels authentic and positive. You might even change the game itself in the process.
Tell Us What You Think
Are office politics bringing out the worst in you and those around you? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.