Office gossip can buzz back to the wrong ears and sting like a bee.
Which is why it’s better, career counselors advise, to float like a butterfly above the cubicle cliques and petty politics that transform even the most professional bureau into a snake pit.
“In some environments, the office can really be like high school,” career coach Pamela Skillings notes. “There are all these cliques and people who are favored at one time. Who you’re hanging out with can be perceived as taking sides.”
If your colleagues have you typecast as an office mean girl or a card-carrying Boys Club lackey, it’s likely because you’ve over-idolized the catty friendships you’ve formed.
“You need to get away from that, even if you think you’re working with the coolest people in the universe,” Skillings adds.
“Diversify your friendships,” concurs workplace relationship expert Courtney Anderson.
That means extending a lunch invite to the shy paper-shufflers and fixed-place cubicle statues who rarely say “yes.” It could mean dropping by a department or bringing pizza to the interns.
For the truly self-unaware, achieving non-alignment in the office politick could also require keeping a paper tally of the number of critical and backbiting comments you let slip past the filter.
“We usually can’t see how bad it is, and we need to get empirical data,” she says. “Once we have that moment of truth where we face that data, often times, it’s shocking.”
Loose lips sink office friends
Some of the unhappiest moments between colleagues come during happy hour.
Over pints of froth — or while rocking around Christmas trees and jack-o’-lanterns of holiday parties — coworkers are all too likely to give their verbal inhibitions the night off, Anderson says.
“Even if you leave work and you go to the local bar with your work friends, you’re still at work,” she stresses. “Everybody thinks this rule doesn’t apply to them.”