Avoiding Office Hysteria


Starting a new job in an office can be a great and rewarding way to jump start your career. It can also become demoralizing, lonely, and dramatic if the people around you are prone to dramatizing their lives. Many people have not quite moved on past the high school mentality, and the result is an office experience that is less than ideal.

For a newcomer to an office, it is best to avoid getting involved with intra-office politics. Staying out of it will keep you neutral and, hopefully, the other parties will leave you alone.

If you are moving to a new office that seems like more of a theater as opposed to being a place to do work, try the following:

  1. Bring your iPod. Listen to music while you work. This will keep you productive (as you are less prone to distractions), and has the added benefit of allowing you to listen to music that you enjoy. Most importantly, it will force people who would otherwise try to talk to you to find a different way to communicate with you. Chances are good that they will only disturb your “work” if it’s something important.
  2. Identify the gossipers. It won’t take you long to realize that there are usually one or two people that make life hell for everyone else. Once you’ve realized who these people are, do whatever you can to avoid them. Don’t talk to them, don’t socialize with them, and don’t go out for drinks with them. Giving them the least amount of first-hand knowledge about you limits how much they have to say.
  3. Get your story straight. Let everyone know from the get go that you aren’t interested in trivial details. My personal favorite is “I don’t have that kind of patience, sorry.” Being too the point and business oriented will let everyone else know that you aren’t into drama, as well as letting your superiors see you as a potential candidate for a leadership role. After all, a manager can’t be into the drama, although there are many that are.
  4. Have fun. Staying out of the office politics doesn’t mean that you can’t talk with your co-workers. Go out, have fun, and get to know everyone. But, when it comes time to spread rumors about something, stay out of it. If someone asks you if you know what the latest dirt is, politely reply that you have no idea.
  5. Don’t take it personally. Eventually, the cross hairs will settle on you and you will become the next victim of workplace drama. Don’t take it personally- everyone becomes a victim of it eventually. Rather than succumb and respond, just ignore it. When people give you funny stares or blank looks, return the favor. But, whatever you do, never try to “put an end to it”. All that accomplishes is adding more fuel to the fire.

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8 thoughts on “Avoiding Office Hysteria

  1. added note: accept that you will almost always, undoubtedly, have to work with people you don’t like. if you keep this in mind, you can always laugh off the jerks in the office.

  2. I hate the office drama the most… The best solution is to work from home

  3. I actually got fired once for (brace yourself) NOT gossiping at the office. I kid you not. Of course, the guy was escorted out of this particular pharmeceutical company a month later for being a wack-o. But, that did not get me my job back in R&D.

  4. Office gossip circles can sometimes evolve into “social clicks” or professional alliances that can burn you if you find yourself sitting outside of the loop. When someone in the circle gets promoted, they pull their buddies along, while unfairly discrediting other diligent workers. One must be aware of the social influences present in corporate America to avoid getting burned down the line. Great article!

  5. I work in an environment where I am making and answering phone calls frequently through the day as well as fielding questions from colleagues or team members and so unfortunately listening to music isn’t really an option. I would love to be able to listen to an iPod through the day though and drown out all the distractions!

  6. You always want to make sure you beat up the biggest person there, the first day.
    …or was that for jail? Oh well, I think it is applicable to both

  7. Office dynamics and politics of consulting and offshoring…
    A topic that many consultants, leaders and managers are loath to talk about, except offline is that of office politics. To be fair, Most management programs – MBA courses, even PMI’s certification program and workshops and other management training…

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