Study looks at the state of office politics


PollIn our democracy one of the hallmarks of being a responsible citizen is to exercise your right to vote, and that means taking an interest in politics. However, when it comes to office politics, most choose to take a wary approach, and one consultancy believes that is a wise approach.

The study comes from Robert Half International, a professional staffing firm. It found that 40% of those surveyed engage in office politics only on those occasions where the issues involved carry personal importance.

Only 14% are active at all times, far less than the 39% who try to stay out of the game completely. The remainder weren’t sure.

The most commonly reported office politics ploy was gossiping or spreading rumors – 54% have witnessed that. It was followed by flattering the boss (20%), taking credit for others’ work (17%) and the thankfully rarely seen sabotaging of co-workers’ projects (2%). Other tactics cited in numbers too low to warrant categorization added up to 7% of the total.

“Becoming embroiled in office politics is never a good career move, but it’s wise to be aware of political undercurrents on the job because they do exist in most organizations,” said Max Messmer, Chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. “There are people who seek to get ahead in their careers at the expense of others, and this behavior erodes trust and undermines team morale.”

Robert Half International provided the following handy guide to five types of office politicians:

* The Gossip Hound. This person loves spreading rumors and can often be found hovering around the water cooler, speculating about a variety of sensitive issues. Keep your distance from the Gossip Hound and don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to someone directly.

* The Credit Thief. This individual loves the spotlight and relishes taking credit for other people’s work. When collaborating with a Credit Thief, document your contributions. Provide regular updates to your supervisor and correct any misrepresentations about your work.

* The Sycophant. “Shameless” is this person’s middle name — he or she will offer fulsome flattery to anyone who is in a position of power. Although it may be hard to watch, don’t sweat the Sycophant’s tactics. Most managers can see through them. Give kudos to deserving individuals, regardless of their position.

* The Saboteur. Watch your back when working with this person, who loves to play the blame game and make others look bad. Limit your interaction with this master manipulator and make sure to stand up for yourself. Often, the Saboteur will back down when confronted.

* The Adviser. This professional is often closely aligned with an executive and serves as his or her eyes and ears. Develop a good rapport with the Adviser because he or she could have a direct line to the top.