How To Survive Your First Day At The Office

Story Highlights
  • How do you not let work in politics bother you?
  • Can you avoid office politics?
  • How do you handle office politics?
  • Build effective relationships.
  • Keep personal opinions to yourself.
  • Model positive political behaviour.

The Workplace Politics

The past decade has seen many trends that have had an impact on the ways in which space is used in the office and in the ways that workers interact with each other. In the days of the cubicle, people often felt isolated. Then the open-plan office gained popularity; a shared space with no walls, where workers have more interaction with each other. This created the ability to collaborate more effectively, but it also changed the dynamics of workplace politics.

Depending on the office personality types you encounter, surviving workplace politics can be more challenging than it was in the days of the cubicle. You cannot always change the office personality types of your co-workers, but you can learn various strategies to deal with them effectively. Let’s examine the 10 most irritating personality types that you might encounter and how to navigate workplace politics both peacefully and effectively.

1. The Arrogant Egomaniac

We all know this one. They walk around the office, pontificating and spewing an endless stream of knowledge that is irrelevant to the task at hand. You know everything about their degree and accolades because they repeat this information daily. Regardless of how it appears, this personality type probably lacks self-esteem and behaves in this way to bolster their confidence. The best way to deal with them is to get a set of earphones and tune them out because all they are looking for is an audience..

You can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react to it. Mahatma Gandh


2. The One-Upper

This personality type can be vicious. Attempting to make themselves seem like the Rockstar, they will often downplay the contributions of others and even make biting remarks to put others down. They can get under your skin quickly, but don’t let them. The worst thing that you can do is retaliate; if you always take the higher ground, people will see through their facade eventually.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.Abraham Lincoln

3. The Firecracker

The firecracker has a short fuse and a hot temper. These personalities can make others feel intimidated. Remember, this is their problem, not yours. Remain calm and let the fierce winds blow. Eventually, they will wind down and, when more rational heads prevail, you can get your point across more effectively.

4. The Lame Blamer

You know this type; nothing is ever their fault. When something goes wrong, it was either someone or something else. If it wasn’t a co-worker’s fault, it was probably the fault of global politics or the weather. One of their favourite tactics is to make you feel guilty so that you will allow them to shift the blame to you. First-off, don’t feel guilty, and don’t expect them to ever apologies or accept responsibility for their bad decisions. One of the tactics you can use is to try and redirect their attention from blaming to providing verifiable facts.

5. The Control Freak

Even though you can never meet their expectations, you might, surprisingly, find yourself feeling sorry for them. The need to control typically stems from deep emotional issues, often going back to childhood or trauma and a situation where they did not feel in control. Their obsessive-compulsive behaviours are an overreactive coping mechanism. Try praising them for their attention to detail and contributions. You might be pleasantly surprised at their reaction.

6. Poor Me

The victim is a difficult personality to deal with because they constantly complain. They have a dark cloud that follows them around and they can destroy any joy in the room with just their presence. If it becomes too much, you might respond with something like, “I am sorry that happened to you and that it upsets you, is there anything you can do to change the situation?” This will instantly shift the direction of the conversation.


7. Passive-Aggressive

You know the type, they might show up late to your meeting and loudly announce to the crowd the excuse that made them late, and then insist that they are sure you won’t mind. Don’t call them out in public because this is what they want; however, do confront them in private and let them know that you felt disrespected by their behaviour.

how-to-avoid-office-politics8. The Psychopath

Some signs that you are dealing with a real psychopath is that they may do things like take credit for someone else’s work or engage in deception to ‘win’. Distance is the best way to deal with this personality. If you must deal with them, set clear boundaries, and you may have to be blunt because they will not take a subtle hint. Whatever you do, be cautious.

9. The Gossiper

The motivation of the gossiper is to make themselves look good by always putting others down. Although they are irritating, they are surprisingly one of the less-destructive personality types. They create an image of you through storytelling; do not allow yourself to live up to their expectations. If what the gossiper sees and what your real actions say about you do not match, then others will make their own decisions about you.

10. The Saboteur

This is the most dangerous of all office personality types because they will actively work to make you look unconfident and will undercut your efforts. If you are dealing with a saboteur, the best thing to do is to talk to your manager early on, before it creates an issue. Also, it might be time to do a little extra record-keeping on your part so that you can prove your innocence if it ever came down to it.

Not only does water float a boat, it can sink it too. (meaning: Events and people can have both positive and negative influences). Chinese proverb


Now you know about the most irritating and dangerous personality types that you might encounter. In every case, the key to surviving workplace politics is to be proactive rather than reactive. Many workplace politics come down to a need for attention. In most cases, when they do not get the attention they desire, they will stop the behaviour or take it somewhere else – either result is great. If you feel yourself getting hot under the collar, the best advice is to take a step away from the situation. Your co-worker and your future-self will thank you.

Imran Zaman

The founder of DIGITI.ORG - The Digital Transformation Magazine. Imran is a Senior Consultant who helps FTSE 500 companies develop Cloud-First Strategies, introduce Cloud Operating and Cloud Finance Models and leads international Program Management teams to deliver digital change. Imran writes about Business, Technology and Innovation.
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