Navigating Office Politics At Your First Job Post Grad

Posted on June 20, 2017

This is a guest blog post by Intern Queen Alumni Ambassador Jenelle Yee.

Starting my first job out of college was an incredibly exciting milestone in my life. However, I quickly realized that as a new college graduate, it could be pretty tricky to know how to handle unfamiliar situations in the workplace. I did, of course, work in various groups for class activities in college and with co-workers across different departments during my internships. Even though I had these experiences, there were definitely curveballs — such as navigating office politics.

Collins Dictionary defines office politics as, “the ways that power is shared in an organization or workplace, and the ways that it is affected by the personal relationships between the people who work there.” It is imperative as a young professional to understand the unspoken rules of office politics and how to socialize with peers and managers when emerging from a somewhat “controlled” environment such as college. Developing the ability to manage your way through office politics effectively doesn’t mean avoiding problems or being passive aggressive. The key to working through office politics is facing your workplace situations head-on and trying your best not to step on any toes while remaining professional at all times.

Here are a couple of key takeaways to be effective in navigating office politics:

  • Stay Aware of Social Cues: Facial expressions, body language and tone are just a few of many social cues that are extremely helpful to keep in mind. Specifically, maintaining eye contact is a social cue that can be overlooked. In the work world, you’ll be interacting with all kinds of people everyday. Responding to social cues in an effective way will help in a variety of situations.
  • Be Cautious and Avoid Gossip: In order to lead a stress-free career and to have a positive impression on peers, it is smart to steer clear of gossip on all levels. For example, discussing someone else’s salary, promotions, or career moves are still forms of gossip. When these types of conversations come up, it’s helpful to remain indifferent, change the subject, and simply don’t add to the conversation that only speculates.
  • Listen Before You Speak: Listen and learn from your superiors. You may want to be assertive and show interest in what is being discussed, but it is more effective to sit back and listen until there is an appropriate time for you to participate. Demonstrate that you’re engaged in the conversation rather than focusing on when to assert your words.
  • Be Emotionally Intelligent. Working in the professional world is a great place to practice your “poker face” so to speak; or in other words, demonstrate emotional intelligence. Learning to be emotionally intelligent is a challenge that requires a strong understanding of managing your feelings. Life happens and it is natural to have an emotional reaction, but in the workplace, it is key to handle your emotions under the radar especially if you are having an off or bad day.
  • Beware of Conflict: When faced with a situations of conflict, try your best not to get stuck in the middle of someone else’s battle. You may have an opinion about who is right, wrong, or who does the job the best. Instead of taking sides or acting as the mediator, focus on the solution to help the project move forward rather than staying stagnant due to office politics.