Loose Lips can Sink your Career Chances!

Source: Hawke’s Bay Today, Saturday September 5 2009

It’s best to avoid office politics, says expert…

While you don’t actually get to vote whether to have office politics at your work place, most would say it is mainly a negative side to an organisation. But office politics can also have ‘positive’ repercussions – if it is used in the right way. Knowing how to use it effectively will ensure you get the right outcomes, instead of a dent in your reputation.

Identifying the idioms

Office politics is easy to recognise but hard to define. Is it gossiping? Is it playing favourites with work colleagues? According to some definitions, it is about the use of power and influence outside the normal office processes, and Rohan Bowyer, Director of RIOT Recruitment in the Hawke’s Bay, agrees with those thoughts.

“Office politics can be as simple as participating in common gossip about others in your workplace, or as complex as applying ongoing strategies to either gain personal advantage, or in support of others (or a project or cause).”

Is it normal?

Some people may say that they wouldn’t want to work in a company that has office politics, but the reality is that you would hard pressed to find an organisation that doesn’t have some level of politics, in fact, according to Bowyer it is almost natural human behavior.

“In general terms, when a group of people gather together, they will want to socialise and share information. Some individuals are more driven by this than others, but all workplaces with two or more employees are likely to have a varying degree of office politics. As we are all different, and often workplaces can bring together groups of people that would not normally socialise, this can sometimes lead to natural tension, “social groupings”, and to differences of opinions.”

A sense of Camaraderie?

Although one might not want to see to be involved in ‘gossip’ and cliques, sometimes you may feel you have to put your two cents in to feel a part of the team. Although it could be quite difficult to avoid participating, Bowyer says you do need to do your best to avoid the negative part of office politics. This is advisable for those wanting to advance their career.

“Office politics is an ongoing reality that we will face throughout our working lives. Some fall into the trap of thinking that you need to gossip about others in order to “fit in”. But you will have a far more productive and rewarding career if you avoid this, and focus on doing a great job as well as building strong business networks through positive ongoing working relationships.” says Bowyer


Gossip can create an unhealthy atmosphere in a business. Sometimes things talked about aren’t true and can ruin people’s reputations, including your own.

“Certainly office gossip can be seen in a negative light, as it is generally not constructive (such as focused on genuine business needs or even on building positive work relationships). Gossip tends to infer that you are speaking about someone (behind their back), rather than with or to them on a face-to-face basis. In a healthy, positive & open workplace, people will generally work to get along with each other” says Bowyer.

But not all gossip is negative — especially if you act on what you hear rather than spreading it. Use information to do someone a favor, and the good will come back to you later.

How to keep clear of the negative stuff

It’s probably inevitable that at some stage in your career you will have to become involved in some form of office politics or gossip.

“It is important that you avoid meaningless office gossip, as well as anything that could be harmful to others in any way, shape or form. You will not be seen by management in a positive light if you are involved in putting others down to make yourself or close colleagues look better”

Generally, office politics gets a bad write up because people often do it for the wrong reasons; they enjoy the power trip, and compete by trying to paint others in a negative light. But the people who quietly succeed at work are also political operators — they just do it better.


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