How to Avoid Getting Caught Up in Workplace Politics
Office politics and gossip can be a big source of stress at work. Bickering coworkers can distract you from your job and even lead to people getting transferred or fired if the behavior gets out of hand. It's best to steer clear of office politics entirely. The following strategies can help:
1. Walk away from gossip
Sometimes gossiping coworkers have a favorite spot where they gather, like a coffee machine or supply closet. If you notice this pattern, try to avoid hanging out near that place. Get your cup of coffee, box of paper clips, or whatever you came for, and don't stick around for any non-work-related conversation. Of course, you still want to be friendly with your coworkers, but it's usually possible to do that by talking to people one-on-one and chatting with the people around you during the course of your workday without joining a gossip group. Just use your best judgement about which conversations are part of the job and which are only opportunities to gripe.
2. Change the subject
What about when you can't walk away, like if the gossip happens right next to your cubicle or someone approaches you with complaints? In those cases, you'll want to change the subject. For example, you can say, "You know, I don't really have an opinion on that. Did you watch the game Sunday?" Don't feel embarassed about bringing the office politics to a stop. After you do this a few times, the other person will probably realize that you aren't going to play politics and will take the gossip to someone else.
3. Don't talk about your coworkers
Make sure you aren't contributing to office politics yourself, because once you start some intra-office drama, it's hard to back out. Think carefully before you say anything potentially negative about a coworker. Ask yourself: Is this information I need to share to do my job effectively, or is it pointless gossip?
4. Don't take sides
If you notice two coworkers who have a running argument, stay out of it. Don't make any comments, and try not to react by laughing or grumbling about their squabbles. Reacting to an office fight is like adding fuel to a fire. If you ignore it, the people who are arguing may lose interest in their fight.
5. Don't hold grudges
There have probably been a few times when you asked a coworker to help you with something and he or she said no, or when you did someone a huge favor and that person didn't even say thank you. It may be tempting to badmouth them for being rude, but unfortunately, that's often how office drama gets started. Resist the temptation to get even.
6. Give compliments
Saying positive things is usually an effective antidote to negativity and gossip. Give your coworkers sincere compliments, and thank them any time they make your job easier. Try to earn a reputation as the person who always has a kind word to say rather than the person who knows the latest gossip.
7. Avoid sharing personal information
Information about your personal life and your opinions about controversial issues can be fodder for gossip. Keep your personal life and opinions out of the office so those topics don't become the subject of debate among your coworkers.
8. Pretend you like everyone (even if you really don't)
If there are one or two coworkers you can't stand, you'll need to keep quiet about that. Don't let anyone know that you hate their guts. Smile and say hi to all your coworkers equally, even if you don't feel like it. It may take a little extra effort to be nice to your least favorite coworker, but staying out of office drama is worth it.