How can I avoid office politics and stay focused?

Friday December 04 2020
By Jane Muiruri

Dear Jane,
I recently got my first job and I am determined to give my best. However, I have been hearing about office politics and how important it is to avoid getting embroiled in it. Still, others say that it is unwise to avoid politics. What is this all about and how best should I handle it to ensure it serves for the benefit of my career? Ann.

Dear Ann
Office politics is about using your social networks to either help yourself or the organisation grow. I have encountered employees who say, ‘’I will avoid politics and focus on my job”. 

In fact, a friend recently got a new position and her colleague expressly let her know that she would be expected to manage office politics. You must, however, tread carefully so that you don’t fail to deliver on your objectives. That’s a delicate balance. 

Many confuse politics with gossiping – a workplace vice that you should avoid like the plague because it will certainly come back to haunt you. 

Take time to learn and understand the company culture, and to locate the organisation’s centre of power. Take note of your bosses’ and colleagues’ nonverbal cues and facial expressions, and remember that not everyone who smiles with you is your friend.

Who are the most powerful or influential people in your organisation? How can you use them to your advantage? Have you heard the phrase ‘the meeting before the meeting?’ Employees often hold such discussions before important meetings in a bid to get the support of colleagues who can turn the tide in their favour and help them get ahead. 


Enlarge your networks to include both your peers and your superiors. Always have your winning pitch ready, because your breakthrough could come out of a casual chat with an influential colleague. Be cordial to everyone but set boundaries. Avoid venting in the office even when you are annoyed, since this can be used against you. Be careful about what you say because walls have ears. 

Never fight your boss. He can make or break your career. If you have conflicting views, look for an opportune time and share them with him. Venting about it to colleagues can put you in a very awkward position. 

Avoid taking sides during conflicts. Instead, refer the warring factions to a senior manager who can help them resolve the differences.

Jane Muiruri, 
Senior HR Manager, 
Nation Media Group