Overcome the Dangers of Office Politics

Skull and Cross Bones

Unethical office politicians create perceived threats. They’ll suggest someone is out to get you. “Watch out for Joe!”

Vulnerability to unethical office politicians occurs when you wrongly believe they’re acting in your best interest. In reality, they’re working for themselves.

I’ll never forget a colleague saying how sorry they felt for our boss. “She thinks I’m her friend.” they said. In reality they were manipulating rather than supporting the boss. On another occasion, they said, “I can cut someone and they’ll bleed to death before they realize what happened.”

The genius of unethical office politicians is their ability to
make you think you’re acting for your benefit when you’re acting for theirs.


The goal of unethical office politicians is defensiveness on your part. Playing defense distracts from good offense. Rather than working to create new success, defensiveness causes you to protect current positions and past achievements.

It’s hard to move in positive directions when you’re in CYA (Cover Your Ass) mode. You spin your wheels while they get ahead.

Defensive postures:

  1. Drain creativity.
  2. Focus on threats.
  3. Include self-justifying language.
  4. Undermine others.

Ethical office politics:

Office politics is real; understanding and playing office politics ethically advances careers.

  1. Align with real power structures; influence influencers. People with power may not have official authorization. Decision-making seldom follows organizational charts.
  2. Avoid offending unofficial leaders.
  3. Never violate a confidence.
  4. Learn personal agendas.
  5. Respect what colleague’s value.
  6. Deliver the goods, most importantly. There’s no substitute for performance.
  7. Always act with the best interest of the organization in mind.
  8. Avoid unnecessary gamesmanship.


Highly political environments – cronyism, favoritism, manipulation – are never cured from the bottom up.

How can leaders navigate office politics?

What strategies have you seen office politicians use?