Stay above the line in office politics

This article will explore how to stay above the line and positive in the midst of office politics to protect yourself and your career.

What is office politics?

It is the use or abuse of power within a workplace. You can be a positive or a negative office politician. Remember all office politicians are people – each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I particularly like the work of Marie McIntyre, who wrote the book, ‘The secrets to winning at office politics’. Much of what I have to say here is attributed to Marie. She says that we all need to develop political intelligence or political IQ. I agree that you need to develop your political IQ so that you can get what you want via influence, without impacting on others in a detrimental way.

Marie’s research has found some Organisational Facts of Life (OFOL) outlined here.

OFOL #1. Organisations are not democracies.

OFOL #2. Some people have more power than others.

OFOL #3. Virtually all decisions are subjective.

OFOL #4. Your boss has control over much of your life.

OFOL #5. Fairness is an impossible goal.

‘Life is not fair; get used to it.’ ~ Bill Gates

We tell our children that life’s not fair. However, somehow we let these things press our buttons in the workplace. Office politics affects both you and the organisation in negative ways. Let’s look now at how office politics impacts on the organisation? Marie McIntyre writes about the ways that negative situations impacts on workplaces in terms of communication problems and the way adversaries develop. She also highlights staff morale decreasing and the rise if staff absenteeism, presentism, and turnover issues.

Absenteeism Stress contributes to work absenteeism and costs Australian employers.

Presentism is the term used for when a staff member is present but off task. Presentism costs four more than absenteeism. MBF report that presentism costs Australian employers $25.7 billion per year. On average, six days are lost per employee per year.

If you let the office politics get to you, it will impact on your personal well being. Workplace stress accounts for the longest stretches of absenteeism (MBF quote research from the Nation Health and Safety Commission), which results in health concerns, sick days, burnout and sometimes ‘becoming the problem’.

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. ~ Chinese Proverb

Now how do we survive and thrive within the environment of office politics?

I’d like to talk about ways of looking after yourself and preserving your well being, your reputation, and your career growth. Remember that attitude is everything.

‘Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference’ ~ Winston Churchill

Marie found three kinds of adversaries that we can come across in the workplace. She has categorised them as follows:

  1. Focused– you’re in their way.
  2. Emotional – child like needs, no control , and
  3. Vengeful – out to get you personally – act behind your back.

You need to protect yourself and you will respond differently to each one.

Marie McIntyre has found successful people use these strategies

  • Set goals and focus on them – avoid distractions.
  • Recognise power relationships and turn negatives into positives.
  • Increase influence by building positive relationships, and
  • Deliver more than the minimum.

Use protective strategies to ensure that you don’t get too stressed.

Consider ways to help yourself to look after your well being. One tool I often use myself, and I referred to in Part 1 of this program, is what I call ‘Stay above the line’. I have this written on my fridge with a whiteboard marker, and whenever I delve into negativity, I remind myself to stay above the line. You can choose your response. If you stay above the line, you will have high leverage. If you indulge below the line you reduce your personal power and leverage. You create a situation where you have given your power away and are waiting for something to happen (wishing is passive).

Here it is for you.


Stay above the line.

Take responsibility.

Think of solutions,

Look for lessons

Keep your personal power.


Blame others

Make excuses


Give away power (be a victim).


“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find how far they can go.” ~ T. S. Eliot


When the time is right for you to take more action, you are welcome to make contact with me.


If you need information and support more urgently than this article provides, you are welcome to email me.
Bye for now,