It’s no surprise, office politics exist and workers use them to get ahead, survey says

Employees cite activities such as gossip, flattery, and even sabotage at their companies

Posted July 6, 2016

Washington, D.C., isn't the only place brimming with politics. In a new survey, 80 percent of professionals said they believe office politics are alive and well in the workplace.

The Accountemps survey also showed only 14 percent said participating in office politics is not necessary at all to get ahead, compared to 42 percent in a 2012 survey.

Workers were asked, “In your opinion, what effect, if any, does involvement in office politics have on one's career?” Their responses:

  • Very necessary to get ahead — 28 percent
  • Somewhat necessary — 48 percent
  • Not necessary at all to get ahead — 14 percent
  • Don’t know/no answer — 10 percent

Workers were also asked, “Which one of the following most closely describes your involvement in office politics?” Their responses:

  • Active campaigner: I have to play the game to get ahead — 16 percent
  • Occasional voter: I get involved when issues are important to me — 39 percent
  • Neutral party: I stay completely out of the fray — 43 percent
  • Don’t know — 2 percent

The 80 percent of workers who said they have office politics at their company were also asked, “In your opinion, which of the following activities is most common in your office when it comes to office politics?” Their responses:

  • Gossiping or spreading rumors — 46 percent
  • Gaining favor by flattering the boss — 28 percent
  • Taking credit for others’ work — 17 percent
  • Sabotaging coworkers’ projects — 5 percent
  • Other — 4 percent

“There are certain situations in which office politics can't be avoided – it's a natural part of workplace dynamics,” said Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps. “The key is to understand what's at the core of politically charged situations, such as personalities or working relationships, and try to resolve issues in a tactful manner. If you must get involved, you want to be seen as the diplomat.”

Accountemps identifies six types of office politicians and how to handle them:

  1. Gossip Hound: This person knows everything about everyone and isn't afraid to share information. This individual gets a rush by spilling secrets during lunch or posting confidential details on social media.
    How to deal: Keep conversations with this individual related to business. When you sense the topic is shifting to coworkers' personal lives, gracefully exit the conversation by saying you have pressing work to attend to.
  2. Credit Thief: This person wants to get ahead at any cost, even if it means stealing your ideas or passing your work off as his own.
    How to deal: Be more vocal about your views and projects in front of the whole team. Provide frequent updates to your manager so there is no confusion about where credit is due.
  3. Flatterer: It can be hard to tell whether this person's compliments are genuine or just a ploy to win people over. Take this individual’s comments with a grain of salt.
    How to deal: Fortunately, most managers can see through fakeness, so there's no need for you to call out this behavior.
  4. Saboteur: This person hasn't gotten the memo that there's no “I” in team, and works to benefit only himself/herself. This individual can be openly critical, throws others under the bus and rarely takes responsibility for his faults.
    How to deal: Be wary of this individual. Sometimes a saboteur will back down if confronted.
  5. Lobbyist: Often fighting for what he/she believes in and known for swaying opinions to his/her favor, the office lobbyist could have had a lucrative career in politics.
    How to deal: When working with a lobbyist, voice your views on projects and speak up if you disagree with his/her outlook. Though a lobbyist can be unreceptive to fresh ideas, a little explanation may be the key to getting this person to open up to new concepts.
  6. Adviser: Those in leadership positions often turn to this trusted associate who serves as their "eyes and ears" of the company. The adviser works closely with company leaders and holds indirect power.
    How to deal: Befriend the Adviser — he/she is often the gatekeeper of significant information and wields influence behind the scenes.

About the research
The survey was developed by Accountemps and conducted by an independent research firm. It includes responses from more than 1,000 U.S. workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments.


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