Whether you’ve been at a company for five days or 10 years, political traps abound in the workplace. Here’s how to spot, and avoid, any potential potholes.

You’re the new kid on the block
Look out for: The Gossip-mongers
It can be tempting to trust the first friendly face you meet in the pantry. But while it’s important to bond with your new colleagues, it’s just as crucial to avoid falling into the trap of engaging in office gossip in order to fit in. How do you know if someone is genuinely interested in you, or just out to gather intel – be it on you or even your boss? It’s all about the tone and content of the conversation… Pay attention to how the other party asks questions and the nature of the queries. And, when gossip comes your way, make sure you don’t pass it on.

Look out for: The Credit-takers 
You’re new, brimming with ideas and happy to share them… until you realise your more senior co-workers have started taking your words and claiming them as their own. Put a stop to this by making sure your boss is the first recipient of these ideas. Instead of sharing them freely over lunch, send your boss and co-workers e-mail updates of your projects, and ask for their thoughts on your proposals.

You’re the seasoned pro
Look out for: The Alliance-seekers
For some people, the workplace is just like a real-life version of Survivor – they’re constantly trying to pit one colleague or idea against another. On the one hand, networking and forming alliances with the right people makes sense to get ahead. After all, there’s a difference between playing dirty, and being plain naïve. However, the alliances you form should be with people you can trust – both to do the right thing for the company, and to hold up their end of the deal.

You’re the boss
Look out for: The Rabble-rousers
As a manager, how you handle even the most petty of disagreements is crucial. Leaders have the power to prevent politics from overtaking the office by managing the tension within groups. So resist the temptation to get involved as soon as anyone comes to you with a workplace conflict. Instead, you should urge the parties involved to resolve the matter as professionals – not only will it solve the particular problem at hand, it also acts as a deterrent to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Image: Shannon Fagan / 123RF.com
Text: Anabelle Fernandez