10 Ways To Avoid Office Politics And Drama
When starting my career as an EA my principle sat me down during our first week and ran through his basic rules of how our relationship should work. He was the owner of multiple successful organisations and travelled extensively so it was crucial that I became his eyes and ears in the office whilst he was away, especially when it came to office politics, drama and gossip.
He explained that I had to fully immerse myself within every team so that should there be anything to report, he only ever wanted to hear it from me and never through the grapevine.
There are many ways in which you can digest this kind of request from an Exec which can lead you to question not only your working relationships with colleagues, but also your integrity and loyalty when it came to making friendships in the office. During the incredible years that I worked for this Exec, I only found myself in a difficult situation once, when a member of the office admin team who had become a close friend of mine had been involved in an incident after work hours in the office where company property had been damaged.
I had to choose to remain loyal to my boss rather than my colleague to enforce not only his trust in me but to ensure our working relationship wouldn’t be damaged moving forward.
There may be a time that you find yourself in a similar position, perhaps you already have?
In my opinion being an Assistant is one of the hardest roles in the office when it comes to navigating office gossip and drama as the lines can often be blurred and you can find yourself in a sticky situation with your boss quite easily. Read on to learn my top ten tips to avoid drama in the office whilst remaining professional.
Avoid office gossip
This one can be easier said than done and sometimes it can take real restraint to not share your opinion on certain decisions made within the business or on Greg from the Marketing Department’s outburst in the strategy meeting. It’s always best to leave personal issues at home and not discuss someone else’s issues with anyone but the person in question, talking behind someone’s back is unprofessional, petty, and never paints you in a good light.
This is crucial, especially when starting a new role. Whilst it’s important to form strong working relationships with your colleagues and enjoy time with them in the pub after hours to unwind and debrief, it’s also very important to remember there is a line between colleagues and friends that you should be wary to cross.
Things can get messy when you instil too much trust in a colleague with your personal opinions and thoughts, especially if the individual in question isn’t trustworthy. Keeping your personal and professional life separate helps avoid any potential problems in the workplace.
Remember your responsibilities
Similar to my earlier story with my previous Exec and his expectation that any office gossip or drama is reported to him from me, it’s important you remember your responsibilities within your role and don’t let getting sucked into any gossip jeopardise the most important paramount relationship, which is with your boss.
It can take months, if not years to gain the trust of some difficult principals and a situation where you can slip up over something juvenile amid an episode of office drama can truly damage your reputation within an organisation.
Don’t shy away from confrontation
Most of the time, speaking to the person can help keep the peace and resolve the situation. Always try to have these conversations face to face, or over a video call as a bare minimum and keep an open mind. It’s important to remain non-judgmental and listen to what others have to say.
If you think it could be beneficial, speak to your HR or Learning & Development Manager about organising specific training on conflict management, in most cases individuals may not realise that their actions have been harmful, and they need a little training or a workshop on setting expectations to eliminate problems.
Ear mark the instigators
It can be apparent in some offices that when office drama takes place it often revolves around the same employee time and time again. It’s worth making note of this and discussing it with your Exec or HR if you believe that someone is constantly causing an issue for the workplace culture or peace within the office dynamic.
Always remain professional
If you find yourself in the middle of conflict in the workplace, it’s imperative that you always remain professional. Think before you speak and don’t allow your irritation or anger to cause you to speak out of turn. If you must question if something is appropriate to say in a professional capacity, then it probably isn’t.
If you have made a mistake in the workplace, even if it’s something trivial then take ownership, admit your misdemeanours, and move on. Your Exec will admire your honesty and you can take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. Never throw someone under the bus or try to pass blame, these acts of dishonesty won’t be forgotten and can damage your professional relationships.
Treat everyone equally
This one should go without saying, as an Assistant you should divulge yourself into every aspect of the business and have relationships with people in all departments, from the C-Suite and SLT to the cleaners and interns, you never know who you might need a favour from. Therefore, it’s also important to treat everyone, no matter the seniority of their role with the same respect and appreciation.
As an Assistant you are an extension of not only your Exec but the business too. It’s inevitable that at some point there may be decisions made by the company that rub people up the wrong way and may cause a stir amongst colleagues.
Whilst you may agree with disgruntled opinions, keep your head above the parapet and avoid getting involved in bad mouthing the companies’ decisions and try to put a positive spin on things. If you can boost the morale of the team quickly following difficult news it will help to avoid any conflict or drama in the future.
You’ll often find yourself privy to confidential information as an Assistant, whether that be regarding company financials and new policies, or personal information about your Exec. One of the most fundamental skills as an Assistant is the ability to be discreet and build a relationship based on trust with your boss.
If you are ever to betray their trust and share any confidential details, you are setting yourself up for a huge failure. Sometimes this can put you in a difficult position with work colleagues, especially if the information includes information regarding the security of a colleague’s job or the future of their teams’ responsibilities.