Game On! How to Navigate Office Politics to Win

Just office politics — two men and one giant hammer

During this countdown to the 2016 presidential election, it's clear how invigorating (or disheartening, worrisome or whatever you want to call it) politics can be. Office politics can get that way, too. But like it or not, office politics are alive and well in most workplaces.

At least that's what a recent Accountemps survey shows. Eighty percent of the respondents said office politics exist in their offices. More than half (55 percent) said they take part in office politics, and 28 percent said "politicking" is very necessary to get ahead, up from 15 percent in 2012. The workers described themselves as active campaigners (16 percent), occasional voters (39 percent) and neutral parties (43 percent).

Download the guide — How to Navigate Office Politics: Your Guide to Getting Ahead — and see what accounting and finance professionals have to say about office politics in this SlideShare.

While getting a promotion can feel like a competition, you’re really not in a race with your accounting and finance coworkers. And you'd never use a hammer. When it comes to office politics, the key is to keep it clean and focus on what’s best for both you and your organization.

Here are some do’s and don’ts for winning hearts and minds in the workplace:

DO pay attention to the rumor mill

Just office politics — and four people gossiping

Is a senior accountant leaving the company? Are cutbacks a strong possibility in your department’s future? Were the CEO's emails hacked?

In many workplaces, you’re likely to hear rumblings around the water cooler before the news is official. Keeping your finger on your company’s pulse can help ensure you’re prepared for anything. That said, don’t believe every rumor that’s floated. Be aware but discerning.

DON’T engage in mudslinging

Keeping an ear to the ground for information about business matters is one thing, but spreading rumors about colleagues is the dark side of office politics and could land you in hot water. Telling a coworker about the bookkeeper’s promotion is OK; talking about what you heard she did at the holiday party is not. Avoid gossiping about others’ personal lives, and make it known you’re not interested in hearing those types of rumors.

DO start a grassroots campaign for support

Get to know key players throughout your organization, and take the time to show your appreciation for their contributions. Offer to help your colleagues whenever possible, and follow up on your promises so that you build a foundation of trust.

DON’T start a smear campaign to get ahead

Taking your fair share of credit for a group project is fine, but don’t be a glory hog, credit thief or underminer. Even if you succeed in briefly shining in your manager’s eyes, this form of office politics can damaged your credibility with your peers.

DO communicate effectively

Perhaps your boss prefers discussing new projects in person, while other managers in the company like to use email as the main method of communication. Pay attention to others’ work styles, preferences and pet peeves, and do your best to be accommodating.

DON’T hog the airtime

Whether you’re the latest hire or the head of the department, doing all the talking and no listening is a sure way to lose votes of confidence. Reach out to your colleagues regularly and truly listen to what they have to say. Not only will you be showing them respect and building rapport, you’re also likely to learn a lot.

Accounting professionals can play office politics without sacrificing their values and integrity. As Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps, said, "The key is to understand what's at the core of politically charged situations, such as personalities or working relationships, and try to resolve issues in a tactful manner. If you must get involved, you want to be seen as the diplomat."


View or download an infographic of the survey findings.

Looking for more career advice?


Visit the Accountemps Career Center


Editor's note: This post was published in 2014 and was updated recently to reflect more current information.

More workplace articles