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It can be easy to get sucked into office politics. You want to get ahead at work, but you don’t want to constantly stab your colleagues in the back. Thankfully, there is a way to handle office politics without being a complete jerk!

Figure Out the Office’s Culture and Political Scene

Before you can effectively handle the politics of the office, you need to know what you’re working with. What exactly is the landscape of the politics? Look at these three areas to help you figure out the lay of the land.

1. The Unspoken Rules

Work often comes with explicit rules, like those in the employee handbook or what your direct supervisor communicates to you. However, you’ve probably noticed, there are also unspoken rules. These are just as important,possibly more important, when it comes to office politics.

Figuring out the unspoken rules requires you to be a bit of a detective. Observe what is going on in the office. What rules seem to be sacred? Is certain behavior consistently rewarded? What behavior gets people in trouble? Do certain people play by one set of rules? Pay attention.This information can make the difference between you getting promoted, stepped on, or overlooked.

2. The Culture

The culture of your company is made up of its values, beliefs, and assumptions. Employee’s attitudes and behaviors also influence company culture. By becoming familiar with the overall culture of your company, beyond just the unspoken rules, then you can learn how to effectively navigate it.

Observe the language your company’s leaders and your coworkers use. Reflect on the company’s origin story, legends, celebrations, and symbols. Think about how decisions are made, conflict is resolved, and daily work practices. And definitely know who holds the power and influence.

3. Power and Influence

Every organization has an explicit hierarchy or chain of command. However, usually there will be people with power and influence beyond your boss or your boss’ boss. Think about it— you might find that your senior manager’s executive assistant wields a ton of power as the gatekeeper. Or there is a senior manager who has the ear of HR Director that has even more influence on promotions than the HR Manager you interface with. Also, keep in mind that power dynamics ebb and flow. So stay attuned to what’s going on at the office, even if you’re not going to jump into the deep end of the politics.

Tips to Keep in Mind When Navigating Office Politics

Once you understand the culture and politics of your office, then you’re better prepared to dive in. These 5 tips will help you handle office politics without being a jerk.

1. Always Remember to be Good

It is so easy to get sucked into the negativity and underhandedness of office politics. Remind yourself each morning that you are going to “be good”. Repeat your values and review your boundaries before you jump into the fray. Think about someone you admire and wonder how they would approach the situation. Approach situations with sincerity and ethical integrity, and you’ll be safe from becoming slimy.

2. Surround Yourself with Friends

Cultivate positive relationships at work, and you’ll find that it’s easier to tolerate the frustrating side of office politics. Find people who also want to disengage from nasty politics, and you’ll find a safe haven. And, as with in real life, a good office friend is someone you can lean on for support but will also call you out if you’re being a jerk.

3. Own Your Awesomeness

Sometimes people dim their light a little because they’re afraid of outshining others or getting into the cross hairs of nasty office politics. Don’t sell yourself short. One of the best ways to get ahead at work without engaging in politics is owning your strengths and talents. Kick so much butt at your job that it’s impossible not to notice how awesome you are.

4. Lead by Example

You probably have more influence at work than you think, especially if you’ve developed close relationships with colleagues. Instead of letting negative office politics draw you in, draw others into your integrity. The more people see that it’s possible to exist and thrive in your organization without being a jerk,the more people will disengage from that mess and follow your example! So praise others, be honest, encourage supportive collaboration, and respond with empathy.

5. When They go Low, You Go High

It’s a natural impulse to want to give payback when someone makes you look bad or undermines you. However, in doing so, you risk looking like a huge jerk. Instead, rise above the petty politics. This doesn’t mean you take it lying down. It does mean that you address the issue calmly and privately.Don’t throw around accusations or make assumptions about why they did what they did. Approach the situation with curiosity, and maybe try this method in communicating your concerns.

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Need help thriving in your career without compromising your values? Contact Dr. Crystal I. Lee for a free 20 minute consultation to see how can help.