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How to master office politics by understanding personality types

20 November 2019    |    By: Kris Littlewood
Think office politics are causing a destructive work environment? It might be because your office is brimming with an array of personality types.

From the ringleader to the wallflower, there are contrasting ‘office personas’ everywhere. So, what’s the trick to making sure they all get along next time they’re bound to brainstorm together?

To find out what modern-day harmony looks like, we asked Oliver James, psychologist, broadcaster and author of Office Politics: How to Thrive in a World of Lying, Backstabbing and Dirty Tricks, for his expert advice on dealing with challenging office archetypes.

Here’s what Oliver told us.

“Self-seekers sometimes feel invisible, which they compensate for by being braggadocious. This is why flattery always goes down well with them.

You also want to praise self-seekers with a purpose; this will help them feel better about themselves. They, in turn, will think of you as someone who is just like them – special, insightful, superior. If they are junior to you, they can also be flattered, but it has to be mixed with subtle forms of encouragement.”

“The first step when dealing with a prickly personality is to be honest about how they make you feel.

If your boss is the prickly personality in question, you may have to perform infuriation to get their attention (again, actions speak louder than words with this personality type).

If they are your peer, you have to help them join the dots between how they behave and how it makes others feel. You may want to impose unusually strict rules with carefully designed penalties – but make sure the penalties are automatic and that they do not impinge on you.”

“If your boss loves drama, you can’t afford to take the moral high ground and adopt a judgemental stance. You have to seem to be excited and involved in their gossiping, even if you don’t contribute your own.

If it is your peer or junior who is the busybody, it’s easy to show your discomfort or lack of interest, but the more you can help them to see how damaging it can be, the better.”

“If the rebel is a subordinate, have a quiet chat with them to see if they are aware that they have a problem. If they refuse to take responsibility for their behaviour then you have limited options. You can’t help someone who doesn’t believe they have a problem.

Otherwise, if the rebel is your boss, speak to those who have been in a similar situation with them to see how they have dealt with them in the past. Above all else, don’t take their bad temper to heart; you aren’t the problem, so try not to dwell on it.”

“Guilt tripping from your boss may be defused with humour if it isn’t done purely for malicious purposes. If it is intentionally designed to upset or hurt you, the technique of picturing the accusation as rubbish and putting it in the bin will help.

If a peer or junior is trying to guilt trip you, draw attention to their negative behaviour. For instance, if your junior waxes lyrical about how long their commute is, and how much longer it is than everyone else’s, sit them down and discuss ways to make the commute more manageable for them.”

Have you identified any of the above personalities in your office? No matter where you work, it is inevitable that your office will be filled with clashing personalities – and this isn’t always a bad thing.

Handled right, the office becomes a better place when there is diversity at its heart, often turning a workplace from uninspired, tired and unforgiving to spirited and full of potential.

While it might take a fair bit of work (and a few well-meaning warnings), the end result of workplace harmony is always worth the effort.

Kris Littlewood
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Kris is a marketing professional with over 15 years of experience across both the insurance and hospitality sectors. Specialising in digital marketing communications, he has also been awarded a Certificate in Insurance qualification from the Chartered Insurance Institute. As a digital marketing consultant at Premierline, Kris has an in-depth knowledge of the needs and concerns of small business owners across the UK and enjoys writing about marketing, innovation and business strategy.
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