Swimming in the Shark Tank

17 Feb Career Advice

Leaving University behind and entering the minefield that is the office can be, well, a minefield for recent graduates. Get ready to discover new levels of politics and all sorts of different situations that you’ll have to overcome. Knowing how to approach a difficult co-worker or a sneaky colleague or even a troublesome boss can lead to a much happier work life. It’s all about knowing how to navigate the stormy waters of modern office politics.

It’s true that plenty of employees end up dreading going into work on a Monday morning perhaps due to a difficult team member or a horrible manager who just seems out to get you. When it comes to working your way through the peaks and troughs of professional life, there are a few tips that will make things far easier for you to handle.

Relationships in the workplace are so important and will be an actual lifeline when it comes to battling your way through sly team members and the shark tank of idea-thieves and back-stabbers. Create working friendships and get some office buddies! Feeling left out from office activities, conversations and more can leave people feeling unhappy in their role and lead to negative feelings both in and out of the workplace. So, with that in mind, forge some friendships and make positive connections with others around you.

If you’re dealing with a difficult colleague or an office bully, having a strong network of work friends can help support you through difficult times and will be there to listen and offer advice in tough scenarios. A person becomes harder to bully when they’re not alone so make sure you’re not isolated. That person who is picking on you will think twice if there’s some chance others in the office will notice and expose them and their wrongdoings.

One of the most infuriating things about working in a contemporary office is that your hard work and great ideas will at some point be taken by someone else and the credit goes elsewhere. Unfortunately, unless you prepare for it, it’s inevitable. Whether you casually mention a thought to a colleague over coffee or come up with a new business tactic during a brainstorming session, it can lead to another member of the team taking it as their own. First off, take it as a complement. A creative and dynamic person such as yourself will have many more ideas over the course of their career. Never retaliate and try to expose the theft publicly. It can end badly and leave you looking petty instead of a wronged colleague. Instead, try and document everything you do and all your ideas and make sure you date projects and take notes in meetings. If you have a record of your work that your manager can see, credit will go where it’s due.

It’s easy to get drawn into a petty fight with words or a snippy email trail when you’re not seeing eye-to-eye with someone else on the team but try (hard as it may be) to rise above it and never leave physical evidence of any disagreement that could be used against you in future. Double check your email responses and its good practice to save them in your drafts folder and re-visit them 20 minutes later and re-read before sending. Hopefully the red mist will have lifted by that stage and you can be more objective about your response.

Don’t be afraid to try and challenge unacceptable behaviour and remember it’s possible to change an office culture from within. If you feel a colleague is being unfair or unnecessarily harsh towards you, don’t retaliate by doing the same towards them. It’s important to protect your own reputation within the office. Calmly ask them for a chat and open up a conversation about their behaviour, but never accuse them outright. Often, when someone is challenged on their behaviour, it’s an incentive to change what they’re doing.

Set the standard for professionalism in your office by being polite, courteous and fair while recognising and remarking on good performance from others. Fostering a positive and supportive environment is key to improving office relations.