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How to Survive Office Politics



We human beings have advanced beyond our years. We put a man on the moon, found new methodologies to enhance fertility, and today we can replace faulty organs through transplant procedures. We are indeed the dominant species of the universe! Unfortunately, while we have undoubtedly been able to subdue most hindrances to our existence, it is in our personal relationships with one another that we have failed to advance.

Really, human relationships have not advanced beyond the normal nursery school play ground issues, the only difference is our ego’s are now much bigger and even more fragile. “Gossip”, “slander”, “false accusations”, “mistreatment”, “group seclusions”, are just some of the issues we have taken with us from primary school right to the office. The problem with having these issues in the office environment is many fold. Most of us spend at least 2/3 of our lives at work, and the income we receive is usually all we have to support ourselves and our family. So working within unpleasant circumstances can easily translate to a poor quality of life for many. Plus, in our increasingly unstable economic climate, where once thought solid multinational companies have crumbled with less than a weeks notice, it becomes even more necessary to hold on to our current means of employment.

In order to survive in any jungle, you must adopt key survival tactics. Here are a few tactics to survive the jungle of work politics.

Mind Your Work and Your Manners

It’s no use trying to avoid office politics if you aren’t putting in the effort at work. Think about it, if management has decided to lay of 50 staff members, who do you, think will get the first cut? You guessed right, those that are always the last to get into work and the first to leave. If you spend all day in the office chatting away on Facebook, without meeting any of your Key Performance Indicators, it is very unlikely that you will have a leg to stand on when those kinds of decisions are being made.

Make sure you are always punctual, meet your deadlines and put in the extra effort wherever possible. Achieving this will ensure that your work speaks volumes anytime management decisions are being made.

Also try as much as possible to exclude yourself from office gossip or putting down company policy and your boss. Even in cases where you happen to hear quite juicy information, keep it to yourself. Saying the wrong thing to the wrong person can get you into unnecessary trouble. The same goes for sharing unnecessary personal information about yourself. Maintaining a healthy work, personal life separation is always beneficial.

Finally always remember that work social functions, are still cooperate events and should be treated as such. This is not the time to get tipsy or behave like you would normally do when you are around family and friends.

Be Indispensable

This follows from the first point. If you put in the necessary effort chances, are you will excel at your chosen field of employment, and trust me, everyone will know about it. This means anytime anyone has a question, you will be the first one they’ll ask, and this goes for both your co-workers and clients. Being the go-to person in any establishment makes you indispensable. If your boss knows they can rely on you to get the job done, they will most likely want to keep you around.

Being indispensable also means taking out time to train yourself. Go for courses that enhance your CV and your general career goals. Make sure you are knowledgeable in your chosen profession, this will also go along way in enhancing your self confidence and career advancement.

Learn to Play the Game

As with any thing in life, you must learn the rules, before you can play effectively. The same is true of the work place. That doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing everyone else does, it just means you must be aware of the dynamics and devise your own strategies for success. For example, if you know your boss is passionate about a particular project, it wouldn’t hurt to ensure that your priorities reflect that. Also, if you know your supervisor, likes being called by his title “Engineer” Ladipo, it wouldn’t do you any harm to address him as he wishes. You’d be surprised how little things like this make a world of difference.

However, always remember that there is a thin line between learning how the game is played and just paying lip service. The trick here is to be aware of the game not be part of it.

Manage your Emotions

Personally, this is something I struggle with. I like to speak my mind when and how it pleases me, but the disadvantages to this trait, especially in a work environment, far outweigh its benefits.

Yes, there are times you will want to scream at your co-worker who is taking all the praise for the hard work you both put into a project. There will also be a time when you want to tell your boss just how wicked and evil she is and how she is a miserable witch. There might also be a time when you feel like just screaming out of sheer frustration and desperation. But you must keep it together. Go to the bathroom and scream if you must, go into your car and punch the dash board or wait till you get home and cry on the shoulder of your loved one instead. But NEVER show those emotions at work.

However, there might be situations were it might be necessary for you to speak up for yourself. In cases like this, I would advice that you wait until you are completely calm, that way you will speak from a rational, sensible point of view and not form your emotions.

Keep your Eye on the Prize

In life, you should have goals. Things you hope to achieve that keep you focused, motivated and grounded. The same should go for your career. You must have an ultimate career goal in focus and plot a trajectory for getting there. That way, you will see your job as a means to an end, not necessarily an end in itself. When you have your career destination in focus, it makes it easier to tolerate various work related issues that may arise, because you know they are essentially temporary.

The problem with most employees is that they settle very quickly into a role and allow it to define them. They forget that they are only employees being employed by someone else who has the overall final say on that particular employment position. But when you have an ultimate career goal in focus, you are continually striving for something better instead of allowing your current position to delude you into a false sense of self satisfaction.

Remember the Little People

People like drivers, messengers, clerks and assistants e.t.c. are vital to the running of any organization. By virtue of their position, Directors, Managers, CEO’s tend to drop salient pieces of information when ever they are around them (for example, an MD receiving an important business call while in the car or an assistant who has access to her bosses diary). This makes them very useful friends to have on your side.

Depending on your position, you might find it quite easy to dismiss people in such roles. However, it may one day prove valuable to keep them on your side, as you never know when they might have information that could save you a whole load of stress.

Glory is the host and executive producer of Inspire Series, the web talk show which uses the collective stories of everyday women to inspire others. She believes women are more than hand bags, hair, make-up and other externalities and is passionate about about pursuing purpose and living above societal conformities. She is also a day dreamer, and romantic at heart who loves TV, food and family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @inspiredbyglory and read more from her on


  1. Tutu

    March 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    first…good advice

  2. Tiki

    March 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    First to comment! I’m waiting for snide comments…
    About the article, good points raised there! I’ll be definitely putting them into practice…Good write-up Glory, I’m sure this will be much appreciated by your readers!

    • Babydee

      March 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm

      Not quite….lol…. Amaka, don’t worry, i took care of it for you!

  3. D.O.T.M.H

    March 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Brilliant! Thank you Glory. I’m just getting ready to delve into the whole office/career aspect of my life. No more internship or holiday jobs where I know I’m walking out after 3 months. May God help me. Thank you

  4. BC

    March 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Some of us needed to hear this. It hit home Glory, as always.

  5. Miss ATL

    March 3, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Very nice write up.

    I used to think small companies were exempt from office politics. Where I work, there are only 3 FT and 2 PT employees, so it should be all good, right? WRONG!!!!!! I’ve recently had to struggle with it, and I agree with the idea of picking your battles. If you decide to fight EVERY TIME there is an issue, you’ll spend more time arguing than working. So I’ve learned to just smile, agree to disagree, ignore petty issues and keep it moving. At the end of the day, some people thrive on drama and conflict – I shall NOT give them the pleasure 🙂

  6. Hotchocolate

    March 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Thank you Gloria,am so deflated by the ofis politics where i work that am seriously looking for another job.Not that am running from them but i need to establish / define my career path.

  7. Africhic

    March 3, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Very true Gloria. i have learnt this at my current place of work. i was coming from a free and happy go lucky place, now we have to play favorites and there is so much backbiting. But your tips come really handy.

  8. laraak

    March 3, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Well said Gloria,i practice this and the result is absolute thrilling…

    • Wrong name..

      March 4, 2011 at 8:49 am

      Her Name is Glory!!!!!!!!!..It’s right up there GLORY Edozien..sheesh

    • Africhic

      March 4, 2011 at 11:19 am

      Duh? Wonder why you are taking panadol for another person’s headache.

      lighten up! lol

  9. Mo

    March 3, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    this is a really good piece… something happened in my office and i broke down and cried right there and then, the office politics thingy, i know am so emotional but i was so hurt that i couldnt hold it and today i look back and wish i hadnt. and what happened has caused me to really realise what people are capable of doing when it comes to officce politics, today i dont really talk to people in my office anymore, i just focus on my deliverables and get them done on time and perfectly and leave when its closing time.

  10. Vonmiwi

    March 3, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    I’ve been contemplating the same things as to how to avoid two-faced individuals at work. I just suit up in Gods armour before going to work. Great post.

  11. Office-novice

    March 3, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    I have a couple of friends that worked in a law firm somewhere on the Island where one of the partners was a very difficult woman. Sometimes, she could be heard from her office upstairs shouting at staff on the telephone, when she could have simply called them up to her office.

    Her pet peeves were spelling mistakes in reports or write-ups or even slight punctuation errors. She would rant and complain about a lawyer’s writing style or the format for the letter for hours, even making one particular associate re-print a letter up to 15 times. She employed Word spell-check and a large Oxford dictionary to catch out offenders. She monitored every single correspondence with clients handled by her associates, even refusing to entrust some senior associates with up to 15 years experience with some ordinary tasks.

    It was not uncommon to see workers spending hours formatting an internal report for a 30 minute meeting just not to run foul of Ms. Boss from Hell.

    When she chided a staff member via email, she copied all the staff. She also blasted staff at meetings in front of everyone, regardless of the erring staff’s position or level of seniority in the office.

    She once shoved someone away for leaning on the venetian blinds in the over-crowded meeting room.

    Her method of laying off staff or getting rid of workers was through a process similar to the Japanese ancient traditional act of hara-kiri.

    In feudal Japan, where a warrior was disgraced or defeated, he “lost face” thereby feeling extreme shame. As a result, to assuage the shame he performed an extremely painful act of ritual suicide called “hara-kiri” (disembowelment) where he cut open his abdomen with a short blade.

    After giving the erring associate a public reprimand, she would ask him to resign by turning in a letter. This involuntary act of resignation absolves her of the one month’s notice requirement and also gives her a kind of moral legitimacy. Well, you jumped, I didn’t push you to your death; I just watched.

    At least 15-20 staff of that firm have resigned, been retired, sacked or have left that firm due to her attitude.

    There was also a female Managing Director who went through personal assistants like water. She dismissed one P.A. for getting engaged without telling her, and laid off another because she did not “feel her vibe.” …………

    • Deji

      March 4, 2011 at 12:56 am

      LMAO! Can you tell us the name so we can avoid the law firm? The initials would do 😉

  12. wendy

    March 3, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Office Novice!
    too much info pls!

  13. ochella

    March 3, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    @wendy please allow office novice. i had a good laff reading.
    True stuff Glory. There’s politics everywhere.

  14. Tina Ike

    March 4, 2011 at 6:01 am

    as usual Glory great article, thanks for the “survival tactics” i think these points should apply in any setting, survival of the fittest indeed. They are all great, i particularly like the “manage your emotions” as humans this will take more practise but i would say with more practising we perfect our skills set to handle any issues in public.

  15. Sassy Diva

    March 4, 2011 at 8:36 am

    All i can say, is that this is timely and right on point . Especially the part about “soemone else getting all the praise for your work”. Play smart. It saves.Well done dear

  16. fokasibe

    March 4, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Well said! Hear, hear!!

  17. Jan

    March 4, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Office Novice, you are on point. Had an hilarious time reading your comment. I once had a boss from hell. He was a male chauvinist who felt that a woman’s role was in the kitchen and the bedroom. When you greet him, he responds with a grunt. I stopped greeting him after that. Since we operate on a first name basis, it was easy to do. However, he took things too far by bullying every other person in the office including his own boss who couldn’t match him in the bullying square. Staffs from the the next office would come in apologize on his behalf every morning after berating us. The funny thing was, he never tried it with me cos he knew me to be a no nonsense lady who would give as good as she gets.

    I would rally my colleagues up in the morning and encourage them to stand up for themselves but most were too timid to challenge him. Where I got really mad was when he started making snide comments concerning my job performance which could marr my career. I took him on by reporting him formally to a senior manager who has the listening ears of top management. I also went with two of my colleagues who were outspoken and we provided dates, instances of his obnoxious behavior. This was someone who comes into the office and watches and reads Arsene Wenger clips online. When it’s 5 o’clock, he picks up his tennis racquet and heads to the tennis club. Highly overbearing. To cut the long story short, within 2months of making that complaint, he was transferred to another region. You needed to have seen his face when he was told he had no option but to leave for this region or resign. His send forth party was the hippest I had seen in a long time since I joined the company. My colleagues danced till they could dance no more.

    • Office Novice

      March 4, 2011 at 6:34 pm

      Nice one.
      Glad you stood up to him. Unprofessional intimidation in the Nigerian work place should be expunged from our national consciousness.

  18. [email protected]

    March 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm


  19. mary007

    March 4, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Loved reading the comments

  20. ineverknew

    March 5, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    If only I’d read this a week ago…

  21. Victim

    March 8, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Nice article, wld use ur advice when i get my next job. Because i couldn’t play the game i have been asked to resign where i work.

  22. pheyee

    March 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    you just have to learn to survive in your work place cos there is a level of politics in each office.

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