How to Work in an Office and Not Lose your Mind

This past week at work has been incredibly stressful, and I have had my work ethic, knowledge, and professional integrity called into question by a single person who is, essentially, a bully. It made me think of all the ways in the past I have dealt with people like this, and how I have had a successful, discipline free career to date.

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When I was a teen I thought that once I joined the work force all the drama would come to an end because we all were, after all, adults and adults are mature right? We’ve all learned to get along and work together right?

Wrong.

Throughout my career, both as an assistant and as a manager, I have had to deal with many dramas from physical and verbal abuse, to lies, to simply befriending the wrong person, to all out drama and shenanigans.

It’s been a hell of a ride.

After 15 years of working in a corporate environment, I have thankfully figured out several ways to deal, cope and manage office politics and bullying in a way that not only negates any negative affect on your work ethic and reputation, but will improve both.

So, if you’re subject to bullying and office politics – what should you do?

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Be Careful Who You Befriend

This is a difficult one as when you start a job you don’t know the history of the work place, nor the people you work with. I’ve learned throughout my career to sit back and wait, and watch and learn who you can trust; my very first job was essentially ruined because I chose the wrong girl in the office to befriend. She was eventually fired and it took me a fair while to improve my reputation and status amongst my peers. Just remember – you’re known by the company you keep not only in highschool, but in the office, so sit back, be friendly, and wait til the first impressions wear off before you form an opinion.

Policies and Procedures are there to protect you

Yes, policies and procedures may seem stuffy, annoying and cloying, preventing you from doing what you want when you want, and perhaps even getting in the way of working how you’re used to working. However, these are in place to protect you and you need to learn to use these as a shield and a barrier. If you learn all P&P and adhere to them, follow them, it means that if someone starts questioning your work or behaviour, you have these P&P to stand behind.  A policy tells you how to act, and a procedure tells you what to do, so with these behind you, how can you possibly go wrong? Most organisations keep all their P&P on their intranets, so when you’re settling into the job, have a read and familiarise yourself with these.

Keep a Journal

If someone is being rude or abrasive or abusive to you, or simply working in such a way that it is starting to affect your own work – log it all in a journal. Make sure you make your manager aware that such a journal is being kept and whenever you are subject to negative behaviour ensure you catalogue it in a neat and concise manner. This means if it all gets too much you have a recorded history of the negative behaviour you have been exposed to, and can escalate it to your line manager.

You own how people perceive you

I have been told many times in my career that I am bossy, and each time I have asked that person if they’d have used the same adjective if I was not a 5’2 female who looks far younger than she actually is. Of course, the answer is no. To be successful you have to own how people perceive you and manage it. Bossy? No, you’re assertive. Abrasive? No, you’re confident. Own who you are, and be who you need to be to succeed. There’s a reasons there’s a Thesaurus and I highly encourage you use it to find the best word to replace the worst word thrown at you. Take ownership of how people perceive you, and don’t let a bad word own you – instead own that word and make it yours.

Unfortunately, this is a lot harder if people perceive you as not knowing your job even though you do – in this case use their doubt to inspire you to work harder, more efficiently, and simply prove them wrong in the best way possible – by being successful.

Understand basic Psychology

Everyone learns and works differently, and if you take the time to learn the basic personality types – whether it is starsigns, alpha/beta, or whatever works for you, it will give you an enviable step up in regards to understanding your peers. Are they someone who communicates through reading and writing, or are they more a verbal communicator? Are they analytical or creative?

Understanding a person’s basic personality and drive means you can understand how to not only work with them on a day to day basis, but how they learn, how they teach, and their basic interpersonal behaviours. These are essential in the office and workforce – knowing how to interact with a person in the most efficient and effective way means that you are in control.

Finally… Dress to impress

This one may seem weird, but unfortunately the first impression any one has of us is visual. Thankfully, impressions can change and visual impressions are fast to fade. People seem to only remember the last outfit you wore, never the first, and given how important visual impressions are it means you can control this. I was once told, many years ago, that I looked harsh and unfriendly, so I changed my makeup, the way I styled my hair, the way I dressed, and suddenly people were far more willing to talk and communicate with me. Another example is when I changed my hair from black to auburn – even my boss noted that staff has started treating me differently, were friendlier and more cooperative. How you look on the outside, no matter who you are on the inside, will influence how people treat you – manage your look to manage your reputation.

The above is of course just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to advice for working in an office, and hopefully this helps you navigate the office and the politics involved. It’s not easy, and every day offers a learning curve, but if you stay strong and stay true to who you are you will succeed both personally, and professionally.

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