Red or Blue? Avoiding Office Politics

By: Molly Tullis

No, I’m not actually referring to whether the bumper sticker on your car is of a donkey or a well-dressed elephant – or for some millennials, even a Green Peace sticker. Office politics are a beast all on their own and have a different way of bearing their ugly faces. While a political debate in an office space can be done intelligently and respectfully, office politics lend themselves to be more reminiscent of a scene from Mean Girls than West Wing. They are just that: a political game of co-workers usually resorting to gossip and back-end deals to try and secure promotions, bonuses, or even pay raises through relationships and back stabbing. Office politics can be toxic and usually involve destroyed relationships, hurt feelings, and are much more appropriate for an episode of Survivor than somewhere nine to five.



One of the first things that I was told upon entering my fashion industry internship was to avoid office politics at all costs. It seemed an easy enough rule; anyone knows in black and white situations that office politics are detrimental to a happy work environment. But about three weeks into the job, it became apparent that not all situations were plainly black and white. When dealing with office politics, it’s usually grey. I’ve combined the best three ways to identify office politics, and stop yourself from launching a campaign.
1. Gossip has the most to do with office politics. Most often called ‘water cooler talk’, it’s the little things that co-workers talk about on breaks in hushed whispers. The topics can range from who is getting fired, who’s getting hired, to, in my situation, which PR agent was going to get the best couture brand campaign. While the talks seem harmless and quite interesting, unless it has been confirmed by a higher up and it’s common knowledge – try not to talk about it. Especially in fashion, which is known for back stabbing and ruthless people (Devil Wears Prada, anyone?), these kinds of rumors and gossip can only ruin your reputation as well as that of others. There is one woman in my company who is always starting a conversation with, “Did you hear about…?” and everyone in the company knows not to trust her with confidential information. When it’s time for promotions, if you can’t be trusted, you can’t be promoted.
2. Stop it when you see it. I’m not saying that you need to monitor the hallways with your hall monitor badge and flag anyone having a hushed conversation by the water cooler. What you should do, however, when someone approaches you with office gossip is make a smooth transition. This is a skill that I’ve been taught for whenever I don’t want to answer a particular question. If you work in media, then you know the specific skill set I’m talking about. If anyone approaches you…read more 

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