It doesn’t take long after joining the workforce to realize there’s more to professional success as an administrative professional than following the employee handbook. Even at the best of companies, you must be adept at dealing with office politics: those unspoken rules that help you work well with others and get ahead.

In a survey by our company, 40 percent of workers interviewed said they at least occasionally participate in office politics. How well they do at it is another story, though. Get it right with office politics, and you can build a positive reputation, strong working relationships and a case for advancement. Get it wrong, and you do the opposite. Here are some ways to stay on track:

Be sociable

Take the time to get to know people at work. A few minutes of chatting while getting coffee or eating lunch can help you build rapport, which can come in handy when you work on projects together or when you need someone’s assistance.

Want to create a large base of allies? Be a useful resource to managers, other administrative personnel and people in your department by helping out when you can, treating everyone with respect and meeting deadlines.

Watch your words

I’ve said this in another post, and it bears repeating: Don’t gossip. Can’t believe your boss expects you to work late right before a holiday break? Vent about it with friends and family when you get home. What you say to other administrative staff may not stay secret, so it’s just not worth the risk of having your negative comments reach the wrong people.

Customize communication

Just because you prefer using email to face-to-face discussions doesn’t mean others do. Those who are experts at knowing how to deal with office politics figure out individual communication preferences and adapt. This means not only adjusting how details are conveyed to each person but also the type of content shared. For instance, some leaders may prefer more detailed project updates while others just want you to get to the point.

Play nice

Despite your best efforts at being an office politics superstar, mistakes will happen. Disagreements will arise. If you’re to blame, admit it right away and apologize. If others are at fault, try to keep an open mind. The way you react when the chips are down can make a long-lasting impression on others.