Office Politics — Page 2 of 2

But let’s say you are at least fortunate enough not to have become victim number one yet, but see a manipulator casting glances in your direction.

Assuming that you yourself have no intention of becoming a full-time office politician, there are three defenses you can erect that will minimize the chances of your becoming a victim of office politics.

1. Cultivate Personal Color

Manipulators would rather not try to victimize colorful characters for the same reason car thieves avoid red or purple cars. Why? The harmless notoriety surrounding colorful characters gives them a degree of immunity from malicious gossip. Yes, taking on extra personality sounds like a bother and a distraction from doing good work — and it is — but you don’t actually have to develop a standup routine. All you have to do is attach a bit of superficial whimsy or eccentricity to yourself. It can be as simple as wearing Spiderman suspenders or taking up some oddball crusade, say, trying to get everyone you meet to save stray dogs from the pound. Just make sure the color or cause you take on is as bright and zany as is permissible in your work environment without being offensive.

I can see you shaking your heads. “:My professional image will be hurt if I start wearing psychadelic bowties or handing out fliers featuring stray dogs to everyone in the office,” you protest. Whimsy and eccentricity are every American’s birthright. As long as it’s harmless, a bit of goofiness merely adds to your individuality. If people are already snickering benignly about your psychadelic bowties or the gerbil under your desk or the stream of stray dog flyers you pass out, a manipulator is less likely to see you as an easy mark. Call it a vaccine against office politics. And it won’t cost more than a few bucks or a few hours of your time. What’s more, you may well enjoy taking on a bit of color.

2. Start or Join an Interest Group

Unless you’re a pretty sterile human being, you probably have a sport, a hobby, a cause or a candidate in common with at least one or two other individuals in your office or company. Start an informal group that meets once a week over lunch, after work or simply for a few minutes every day by the coffeemaker. Your little network will keep you from being seen as socially isolated and an easy mark for a manipulator.

If you don’t want to, or aren’t able to, start your own group, seek out and join one started by someone else. A common interest takes away the awkwardness and pressure that can mark participation in purely social gatherings but gives you the benefit of being part of an office network.

3. Show Kindness to People in Need

One of the easiest and most gratifying ways to elevate yourself above office politics is to be known for your kindness and generosity. You don’t have to change your life and become a latter-day Mother Theresa. Just be open to opportunities to help those in your office or company who might need it most. If someone is moving and you have a free afternoon, offer to help. Or take up a collection for someone who’s suffered a personal loss. Offer rides to someone who’s carless. Buy a takeout for someone’s who’s stuck in the office. After sex scandals and killings, nothing gets talked about as much as gratuitous acts of kindness and generosity. That kind of good word-of-mouth makes you pretty repulsive to an office politician on the prowl for her next kill. Prev

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