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'How do I deal with office politics?'

Ask Jo

'I work in PR in a very gossipy office with lots of office politics and dramas. I try not to get involved, but the gossip and bitchiness are getting to me. What's the best way to cope?'

Ann, 24


Some office environments are more prone to ‘bitchiness’ and gossip than others and it seems to be more common in those that are female-dominated. Perhaps you need to think about if you want to stay working in this sort of environment – though there’s no guarantee you won’t encounter this again elsewhere.

Below are some approaches you could try when workplace politics get out of hand:

  • Don’t get sucked in, and if someone tries to engage in gossip or bitchiness with you – change the subject!
  • Lead by example – be a role model of good office behaviour and don’t participate. Stay focused on your job and try not to let it affect your work performance.
  • Sometimes people really don’t realise that their behaviour is inappropriate or is making someone else uncomfortable. You could try the direct approach with something like, ‘I really don’t feel comfortable talking about this person when they’re not here – let’s ask them when they’re back in the office’.
  • Don’t give them anything to gossip about – keep your private information private.
  • If someone is gossiping about you, a surefire way to stop it is by addressing it head-on by saying something like, ‘I heard you have been saying XX about me; if you have any questions I really would appreciate you coming to me instead of talking about me to our colleagues’.
  • Try not to take it personally – obviously they have too much time on their hands and not enough work to do. And their behaviour will only reflect on them, not you.
  • Look at management – are they a good role model or are they perpetuating the problem? Could you talk with your manager? A training session for all staff on appropriate office behaviour is one way of telling them that this sort of behaviour is not OK.

For more information, Meredith Fuller’s book, Working with Mean Girls, provides current research and solutions for how you can identify and cope with bitchiness in the workplace.

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