Be professional in your attitude to others and don’t let yourself be too vulnerable.

'I'd really love my work if it wasn't for the office politics," says Amanda, who works in a central Auckland office. "I find them tiring and stupid and try not to get involved - but sometimes it's really difficult to not get into the game playing. It can be stressful."

Monique Knight, who owns the Tui Centre for psychotherapy and counselling, says office politics are not avoidable.

"As soon as there are more than two people there are politics.

"Everyone is employed because they have different skill sets, so they are employed for the difference they bring to a workplace. Therefore they will have a different world view."


Speaker, coach and trainer Sarah Pearce, of Sarah Pearce Strategy, agrees: "We are human beings and we bring our differences to the table. We have different ways of being. The workplace environment is where the underlying drivers are salary and status. When that's the case there's going to be politics."

Knight says politics can be managed in the same way you would manage Facebook or Twitter.

"You are careful about what you say and to whom. Be careful about taking sides. And pick your battles. If you diss someone be prepared to get caught and have good reason for having done so.

"Most people say it is politics but it is usually personal opinion and whether they like the other person or not," Knight says.

"Most people have one or two buddies at work that are their closer friends and they will be more open to their opinions than they might be to others."

"I worked with someone whose communication style was very critical and she was not well liked at all. She was also very skilled and knew a lot but that knowledge wasn't accessed as people didn't ask her because of how she came across."

Pearce says: "Let's face it, if money and status weren't at stake people wouldn't behave the way they do in the office. It's important not to take things personally. Some people will act like they're your friend with the best intention - but when the stakes are high they may turn on you.

"Be professional. Don't allow yourself to be too vulnerable."

Pearce says if the office politics are not any of your business, keep out.

"By all means be a sympathetic ear for a colleague, but don't repeat what is said and don't get emotionally drawn in - it's not worth it.

"Office politics can be ignored when it's not about you. However, if they are threatening you or your career you do need to wade in. Address them in a calm, clear and factual manner. Be firm. Say: 'That's not okay, I need to address that'."

If you do get embroiled in politics in this way, Pearce says, use such things as emails so you have a document trail. It can help later.

Knight says you can expect to get flak now and again. "When issues come up, before you wade in ask yourself if it is your business and if this will help your employer or not. Ganging up on someone is never cool and even if you 'win' it can mess with your reputation."

School of Psychology senior lecturer Dr Dianne Gardner says research shows that office politics are not necessarily a bad thing. "I love the Wikipedia definition: Office politics 'is the use of power and social networking within an organisation to achieve changes that benefit the organisation or individuals within it'.

"Okay, so can we keep out of it? Not if we define office politics as being about influence, social interactions, the need to be part of changes and decisions that affect us.

"But how do we navigate them without falling victim to them? Here's where myself and master's student Andrea Soykan are doing some research. Political skill is 'the ability to effectively understand others at work, and to use such knowledge to influence others to act in ways that enhance one's personal and/or organisational objectives'.

"This is important. It's a useful buffer against stress, it can inspire confidence and trust, build influence and get things done.

"But it can be used badly. It can become manipulative."

Gardner says it pays to be socially astute whether you want to be an office politician or not and ignoring office politics seems to be a bad idea. "Is it ever a good idea to ignore what's going on around you? Especially by individuals who are seeking to have influence over things that are going to affect you. Ignoring them seems a bad idea. Getting in and attempting to 'play the political game' is another thing - it needs the skills to do it."

Gardner says "playing the game" can help your career. "It can bring influence, recognition, build trust, and help you be recognised - all on the good side.

"However, being manipulative, and apparently seeming sincere while game-playing, can be less positive for your career. As Soykan says in her honours research, 'the social and influential processes that make up political skill can play key roles in evaluations of work performance and leadership effectiveness'."