How Office Politics Work

Surviving Office Politics: Dealing with Coworkers

Experts advise workers to take every opportunity to network in the work place.
Experts advise workers to take every opportunity to network in the work place.
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Whether you want to get things done, improve your professional reputation or just make your office a happy place to work, it's a good idea to foster good relationships with your coworkers. Although it's impossible to please everybody, reaching across to the person on the other side of your cubicle wall has some big advantages.

­Expand your sphere of friends and acquaintances so that you can call on them for help in the future. You may also know it as networking, and it plays a big part in surviving office politics. It's an age-old practice among businessmen and politicians that expands one's visibility and resources. Even if your next link is not above you in management, you never know who has influence with decision-makers [source: Essex]. But it's a two-way street -- they'll call on you for favors, too. And, this is a great way to start a professional relationship, as they'll probably be glad to reciprocate and return the favor later. Even if you never need a favor from them, you'll be establishing a solid reputation around the office as a team player.

Due to generation gaps, different interests, various departments and levels of management, office workers inevitably divide into factions and cliques. Their resemblance to high school cliques has not gone unnoticed, and ingratiating yourself with one can seem as important as it did in high school [source: Davidson]. However, experts advise against associating with just one group [source: Fisher]. Instead, it's best to make friends across the board and to distance oneself from a single group in particular. You can form alliances with a variety of people and groups to advance your goals in the future without alienating others.

Then there are the coworkers who don't want to partner with you and seem to insist on making you look bad. Maybe they're not out to get you, but it sure seems that way. Instead of sinking down to their level and risk entering the morally gray area of negative office politics, experts suggest that you confront the person calmly and rationally [source: Zupek]. And, if this doesn't work, that's when having allies around the office helps -- they might be able to warn you when a coworker is using underhanded tactics to hurt you behind your back [source: Lancaster].

It's tempting to make friends with coworkers by sharing the dirt you know on everyone else, but this isn't a good habit. Indulging in gossip will probably come back to bite you. It's considered unethical to perpetuate rumors that could damage someone's reputation, and the rumor could be traced back to you. Nevertheless, many experts say it doesn't hurt to listen as long as you don't chime in or spread it [source: Zupek]. Knowing what's going on may help you understand the power structure and influences in your office.