Surviving office politics Surviving office politics

As if the stress of the work wasn’t enough, an increasing number of employees rank workplace politics as a major thorn in their side. Whether we like it or not it always has been and will continue to be a fact of life and the first step to beating it is accepting it, says Hanan Nagi, coach, speaker, founder and CEO of HNI Training & Coaching.

“It’s Mafia!” “She would not promote me because I am not a member of her gang!” “He’s got the power and I am not sure whether to play or pass.” Any of this sound familiar?

Whenever I train or coach, dealing with office politics always comes as one of the top challenges people face at the workplace, whether they work in an office or not and regardless of their experience or rank in an organisation. The emotional response of the individual facing office politics is usually the same – a sense of confusion and frustration. Naturally, this would then affect the employee’s performance, level of productivity and consequently the overall business of the organisation. On the other hand, it may also affect the employee’s personal life, with the strain spilling over into relationships with family and friends.

Research also shows that HR professionals or administrators spend more than nine weeks out of the year resolving conflicts amongst employees caused by office politics (“Surviving office politics.” Talent Scout, April 16, 1998). Once again this translates into more time, energy and productivity wasted.

So how can you deal with this effectively without having to become a member of any group? The idea here is that you become emotionally intelligent and not compromise your values nor make enemies of other opposing groups.

1. Accept the reality of it

Over the centuries, humans have been going to wars driven by the need for power, the need to be right, defending their own passions, beliefs or the need for competing and winning. We are emotional beings but, remember, this can be used for positive ends as well as negative. Accepting office politics as a fact of business life will help you deal with it much more effectively. It exists everywhere – in small, medium and large organisations and within the public sector as well as the private.

2. Be an observer

Detach yourself from the situation and take an observer’s seat. This will help you relax and look at the situation from a different perspective, helping you to see things more clearly. When objective and detached you will begin to uncover  who is doing what, who is following who, and what each person is pursuing, whether it is promotion, flexibility, or just more control. Remember don’t judge – just observe.

3. Build your own social network

Do not avoid or get intimidated by politically powerful people in the organisation. On the contrary, make an effort to get to know them – they are human too and share many of the conflicting emotions which you go through at work on a day-to-day basis. Also, begin to build healthy relationships with those who possess the informal power, attempt to be comfortable with just listening and you’ll be surprised how this one method can work miracles.

Remember, these relationships must be built on mutual respect – avoid meaningless flattery otherwise you will eventually lose your self-respect. Be friendly with all employees and managers, no matter what their ranks are. You are then protecting yourself with the love and respect of everyone.

Build healthy relationships beyond work with people from multiple networks – you don’t need to become a member of any network but, instead, try to be the person that everyone likes and respects as well as a person whose opinions and contributions are valued.

4.       Develop yourself

Do not allow office politics to stunt your career growth or prevent from you developing clear career goals. Regardless of how you might feel or the lack of visible growth because of these office games, the best investment you can ever make is in your own abilities and knowledge. People come and go within organisations, with the office landscape changing accordingly. Your competence should outlast all of these transitions and this is where there is scope for career growth beyond the politics.

5. Seek opportunities and shine

Make yourself visible, even if you are sure there is no immediate reward due to the office politics. You never know when the opportunity will come and knock on your door. Remember to also make your team and your boss look good. Give credit to others where credit is due.

Hanan Nagi, coach, speaker, founder and CEO of HNI Training & Coaching

6. Adopting successful practices

Through observation you’ll learn what works in your organisation’s culture and what doesn’t. Watch other people at work and identify successful behaviours which you can model. There are also some general standards to observe that will stop negative politics from spreading.

7. Avoid office gossip

Rise above the daily whining sessions! Gossip and rumours will not do you any good and result in draining energy that’s better spent getting ahead with work. Also, be aware that almost nothing you say is guaranteed to remain secret and in most cases what you have discussed, whether positive or negative, will spread.

8. Maintain professionalism

Always remain professional, even when those around you are not – and always uphold the company’s interests.


Hanan Nagi is an international trainer, executive coach, personal development expert, writer and inspirational speaker. She is also the producer and presenter of the coaching and human development TV show “Develop your life” on DM.T.V. With more than 16 years experience in the corporate world in various industries, Nagi now helps organisations achieve their goals through their people, using custom coaching training programs.

She has been recognised by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for her contribution to excellence and achievement in the people’s development field when she won the Dubai Government Excellence Award. For more information visit or contact

Rushika Bhatia Editor

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.

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