Sure, career and efficiency experts are forever telling us not to engage in the games, the politics, the popularity contests, and the romances on the job that can cost us a good position or the option to rise above the fray
to a better job title. Good thinking? You bet, since these all represent employment pitfalls.
Yet few of these experts ever give us clear-cut advice on exactly how we can successfully steer clear of these major distractions. Even when some of the pros admit that it can be as tough as walking a tightrope in trying to keep separate from the drama at work, they simply won’t tell us what steps to take.
Because of this, many of us have – at one time or another – decided to come clean. We’ve announced to our co-workers that we won’t engage in any of the seeming nonsense. What happens? Most often, it backfires on us as surely as if we had actively gone along with the pack. We discover that we’re ostracized by just about everyone else.
Marjorie “Marnie” Goldman is a former Human Resources executive who is putting together a book on this very subject. She completely agrees that the mistakes we make in trying to keep ourselves away from office politics and interdepartmental games can lead us into more trouble, both from our peers and our superiors.
“By announcing to others that you are Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½above’ such behavior and that you won’t engage in the games and gossip and such, you’ve just made enemies of just about everyone around you who has had to cope with the situation and have already been sucked in. These people will treat you as a pariah and, believe you me, the bosses will notice the deep freeze being directed at you by your coworkers,” says Goldman who indicates she has been on the receiving end of the office cold shoulder more than once.
“The flip side of this is that if you try too hard to pretend that you’re going along with the dramatic office dynamics, you’re likely to get drawn right into the mess along with everyone else. Lines blur and few people escape the enormous pressure to conform,” she adds.
The answer to this age-old dilemma is, in her estimation, to strike a balance between an outright declaration of war on the gamers and gossips and joining in with them. She offers the following recommendations to achieve this balance:
1. Politely occupy yourself elsewhere when office gossip and nastiness is going down. Surely, you have plenty to do so this won’t be a problem.
2. Don’t engage in the gossip or tattling yourself, not even privately among your closest colleagues. After all, people know that if you are willing to badmouth another person, you are just as likely to trash them, too.
3. If a supervisor solicits private comments from you about gossip going around the office, think carefully before you respond. This could be an honest request, or it could be a trap. Goldman says some managers will pit coworkers against one another in a deliberate effort to see who stands at the end of a merciless game.
4. Never tell coworkers how much you hate the boss or ridicule the boss in front of them. Such behavior will make it back to your supervisor. Also never tell coworkers how you are planning your great escape to a better job elsewhere; this also is likely to get repeated to management.
5. When someone comes to you with some delicious dish, don’t read him or her the riot act. Listen but don’t comment. Don’t mention it to anyone else.
6. Never fool yourself into believing that you can keep an interoffice romance a secret. Coworkers tend to suspect sex is occurring even when it’s not, and they are already looking for signals to indicate they are right. Such romances always affect the workplace and, even if your job does not have strict policies against two coworkers dating, the situation is likely to cause problems for some time to come.
7. If you must attend lunches or after-hours get togethers with people from work that often end up with much gossip and mind games being played, don’t engage yourself. If the topic gets too heated or involves someone you like, be prepared to change the subject to a safe one like sports, a TV show, or an interesting story in the news.
8. Resist all temptation of going to the boss with some terrible news about a specific coworker. This goes double if you have a history of antagonism with that worker or you’re in competition for advancement with this person. The boss won’t give you a medal and you likely won’t get a promotion, either.