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8 Helpful Tips to Fight Dirty Office Politics and Win

Drew is a professional pharmacist who has experienced firsthand how the corporate world works.

Office politics can be healthy or cancerous; know the difference to win the game.

Office politics can be healthy or cancerous; know the difference to win the game.

How to Win at Office Politics

Office politics. It's a simple term related to a lot of hurtful things—especially if you’re an employee. Most of the time, it’s linked to nasty gossip, sucking up, and even backstabbing. But did you know that there are two kinds of office politics?

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Office Politics

Yep, you read that right. Healthy office politics maximize and further everyone’s potential. Good office politics eyes the overall betterment of your team or organization’s interest. The one who can do a better job is the one who’ll get the promotion, but only if it's done without taking advantage of or disparaging others—pure skill and ethics, not some office slugfest.

But there's always another face of the coin; if healthy competition exists, so does cancerous competition. Dirty office politics is a thing we abhor, especially when a higher position opens up. Bad corporate politics is a major headache inducer for all progressive companies. This is where sucking up, backstabbing, and character assassination come up. It’s a prevalent issue, especially in massive corporations and even in governments.

Win Against Dirty Office Politics—the Clean and Ethical Way

It doesn’t matter if you like it. It exists. And most of the time, you’ll have to deal with it. Also, if you are a promising employee, be warned. Believe me, jealousy can drive many people nuts. History, in a nutshell, can tell you a lot about this.

You might have already experienced such issues in your workplace. Some of you are aware, but some are not. Thus, it’s necessary to equip yourself with the right tools once you face such spiteful politicking.

With the right wisdom in your hands, you can box and knock out the office issues that are thrown at you.

How to Win at Office Politics

  1. Forge both alliances and friendships
  2. Say no to drama
  3. Always watch your back
  4. Understand your work and organization
  5. Craft a good office image
  6. Show confidence and results
  7. Think before you react
  8. Learn to smile

Let’s move on to the helpful stuff.

1. Forge Both Alliances and Friendships

Believe it or not, history tells us it’s important to have an ally that can back you up in times of trouble. There is a big dilemma among individuals regarding whether it is smarter to build a friendship before alliances or alliances before friendship.

Interestingly, research from the University of Pennsylvania argued friendships are mostly built on alliances. Mutual benefit per se is the name of the game, especially in politically driven organizations such as businesses and governments.

So, if you want to avoid or lessen dirty office politics, how about sharing a piece of that gigantic pie? Of course, make them work first; mutual benefits stand if the two parties benefit—not only him or you but both of you.

2. Say No to Drama

Drama is a big no-no—for me, you, and everyone else. When someone stabs you in the back, you bleed. But after this, the best way to react is to retreat and recuperate. Not some crazy drama loaded with face-slapping scenes and verbal mudslinging.

Don’t show others your crazy side. Leave it at home. You are feeding others juicy scoops to talk about—a nice side dish in their out-of-office gimmicks. Then, you got to work and heard everyone talking about you behind your back. And once again, you practice the stupid art of hysteria and drama. Believe me. It is a dumb cycle.

This is a perfect way to build a long list of enemies. So please, don’t do toxic dramas unless you’re an artist.

3. Always Watch Your Back

I can’t stress this enough. At work, don’t overly trust anyone. Please don’t take this literally like a block of deadwood. What I mean is always add some self-protection for yourself, a Plan B in case something goes wrong.

Don’t put all your files into one USB flash drive. Make copies on your computer or other flash drives for your protection. Though rare, some envious pricks might invent some made-up accidents to crush your work. Some might even steal and plagiarize.

But don’t be an overly cautious employee. You are not a spy in some Hollywood movies. Keep a good balance.

4. Understand Your Work and Organization

A lot of employees actually don’t know why they are doing their work. Their brains are wired only for that monthly payout. That’s why a lot of them fall prey and become victims of dirty office politics.

Some bosses like to pass their work to some unassuming employee and then claim the results. Be wary of these guys, and don’t spoil them lest they become rotten dead weights. Know what your job is and what their job is. Anyway, that’s why your company gives out evaluation forms about performing your bosses.

5. Craft a Good Office Image

A clean and good office image can help you build a rapport with everyone. It’ll make your work easier, and boost your confidence, too. A good office image can also help you establish good alliances and even friendships.

It will also lessen the possibility of having enemies within the office compounds. Even so, don’t lower your guard. Be vigilant against snakes.

6. Show Confidence and Results

Confidence and results are two essential things to showcase your worth and skills. Having these two things will build your credibility in the eyes of others and would make you less of an eyesore to most. Of course, it can still crumble into nothing if you do something incredibly stupid.

Confidence without results is all empty talk. While results without confidence make you look like a fake. Sometimes, you might even get accused of credit grabbing—or having others do work for you.

Aside from that, confidence and results are among the traits most bosses will love their employees for.

7. Think Before You React

Don’t just burst like an active volcano after hearing some bad news. Your reaction shows a lot more about you than nasty gossip. Think before you react. What can I gain if I start a verbal spar? Will it benefit me? Or will it benefit him?

If you know it’s some dirty character assassinations, how about thinking for a moment first? Deflect the accusations with poise and confidence. You are not guilty after all. Spice it up with evidence, and your adversity might be a call away from the CEO’s office.

Don’t get swayed by what you’re feeling right now. Inhale and exhale. Take a short breather outside and return. Remember, you can’t take back what comes out of your mouth.

8. Learn to Smile

Hey, stone-faced silly! Did you know that your glittering pearly whites (or yellow) are splendid weapons? Yep, a sweet and clean grin conveys openness, trustworthiness, and acceptance. No wonder those salespeople loved to smile, right?

A smiling man, especially a genuine one, encourages other people to talk to him. They’ll find you more sunny and pleasing to the eyes. Now ask yourself. Which one do you want? A smiling wife or a scowling wife? Unless you have some twisted preferences, a smiling hubby, of course!

Now let’s shift it to your workplace. Which one do you like to talk with at work? A stone-faced co-worker or a jolly co-worker? See the psychosocial effects of smiling now? No one will want to hit a smiling man.

Now go to a mirror and flex that smiling muscle. No, no, not that sardonic grin.

Understand Dirty Politics to Win the Game

It’s really difficult to handle dirty politics once you battle it face to face. But you can prepare yourself for the eventualities. Ready your ammunitions and stack your advantages by learning more.

Don’t wait when you’re already in the middle of the dirty verbal firefight and hidden machinations. Just like what the great war philosopher Sun Tzu has said, "Know yourself, know your enemy, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

Know and understand dirty politics and save yourself from future troubles. And if the situation comes despite your precautions, at least you’re equipped with the right knowledge to win.


  • Business Without The Bullsh*t by Geoffrey James
  • DeScioli, P., & Kurzban, R. (2009). The alliance hypothesis for human friendship. PloS one, 4(6).
  • Sel, A., Calvo-Merino, B., Tuettenberg, S., & Forster, B. (2015). When you smile, the world smiles at you: ERP evidence for self-expression effects on face processing. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 10(10), 1316–1322.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Drew Agravante