How to Navigate Office Politics as a Christian
Since office politics are a universal truth, your options are to either learn how to navigate them or take up a career as an independent freelancer. Dealing with politics can be especially tricky to do if you are a Christian. It’s one thing to work somewhere, but it’s a different thing to work somewhere and live out your faith convictions. Faith can make office politics more complicated, so let’s look at some ways to help you navigate the murky waters of office politics.
Ways to handle office politics as a Christian.
Keep your head down.
This is a simple principle, keep your head down and your mouth shut. What makes it even better is that it’s rooted in Scripture, “A wise man holds his tongue. Only a fool blurts out everything he knows; that only leads to sorrow and trouble.” (Proverbs 10:14) It’s easier to not get involved when you aren’t talking.
It can be tempting to know what’s going on and feel involved, but it can also get you into trouble. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay updated about what’s going on at work, but you don’t need to be caught up in unnecessary commentary and gossip.
Work with a Christian counselor.If you are concerned about navigating office politics, you may want to consider meeting with a Christian counselor. This might seem extreme, but it isn’t. Meeting with a counselor offers you a safe, objective place to talk about the conflicts and tension at work. It’s likely not safe to share your concerns with your coworkers, and your friends and family naturally have a bias in your favor.
A counselor, on the other hand, is a third party who can give you a more objective opinion about your situation. They are also trained to help you process your emotions and set boundaries. These are necessary things to help you navigate difficult and stressful workplace politics.
Asking questions is an amazing way to navigate tense topics. Maybe you are in the breakroom grabbing a snack when your coworker Mark ambushes you with work gossip and you find yourself trapped. Rather than get into a negative discussion try diverting your coworker with a question.
Remember this question doesn’t need to be thought-provoking or lead to further discussion. It could be as simple as “hmm, really?” or “you think so?” It just needs to be something to protect yourself from getting involved in something you don’t want to talk about. By not answering directly, you can keep yourself out of long discussions on topics you are uncomfortable with.
Find the source(s) of the drama.
In every office or job, there is always at least one person who has been there for a long time and spews gossip, frustration, and negativity. A key strategy to avoid office drama is to determine who this person is and keep your distance from them. You don’t need to be rude, but you also don’t need to be their friend and spend time talking to them. By avoiding them, you will cut off your connection to a lot of negativity and unnecessary gossip.
Stay out of cliques.It’s only human nature to stick close to the people you like and avoid the ones you don’t. But much of the work drama is created by people trying to get into a group or keep people out of one.
By choosing to engage with everyone, you will be seen and respected by people throughout your work. Coworkers will undoubtedly try to make you take sides, but hold your ground and keep yourself out of the fray. You might not be in the “in crowd,” but you also won’t be stuck in the drama.
Don’t talk smack.
The more smack you talk, the more politics you will find yourself connected to. If you participate in petty conversations about your boss and coworkers, then it will get around, inviting more drama and potential conflict. Instead, try to develop a reputation as someone who won’t talk smack or gossip about other people.
This can be difficult, especially when you are having a hard day on the job, which is another reason why meeting with a Christian counselor can be helpful. They provide a safe place for you to vent your frustrations and emotions.
Leave work at work. When you are at work, work hard, so you can go home and not work. This might sound simple, but many people get so caught up in the business and gossip of the office that they aren’t working hard during work hours.
So instead, your work is prolonged into your personal life increasing the potential need to contact your coworkers when you aren’t at work. Not having strong boundaries around your time can get you into trouble. Instead, it’s better to stay busy, thereby keeping you out of trouble during the day and getting you out of there when the whistle blows.
Remember you aren’t obligated to engage everyone.
As Christians, we are called to love others. This is a truth that runs throughout both the New and Old Testaments. Unfortunately, it has come to mean that as a Christian you need everyone to like you. Or that you have to engage and be friends with everyone.
However, this is not necessarily true. For example, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20) This verse clearly warns that who you associate with matters and that you have a choice of who to associate with.
This is something Christians at work need to remember. While it is true that your job is your mission field, that doesn’t mean you need to forcefully share the gospel with all of your coworkers or talk to everyone out of some sense of obligation. There may be very unhealthy people at your work who you need to avoid.
So rather than assume you must love and minister to everyone in your office, spend time with God asking him who he has for you. Likely, he will put certain people on your heart. Maybe these will be coworkers you already have a good relationship with or maybe it will be someone you’d prefer to avoid.
But the point is, you don’t need to walk into work and be drawn into every conversation and friendship out of some misguided sense of loving others. Instead, you can avoid people if they are unhealthy or make sure you’ve taken care of your responsibilities before helping a coworker.
All Christians are called to work, but that doesn’t make you called to office politics. You can indeed be a powerful influence for God by working hard and being kind, but that doesn’t mean you are at the mercy of your coworker’s desires. You can set boundaries on how long you will participate and what you will talk about.
Likely God will put someone on your heart as a person he has for you to minister to, but that doesn’t make you the pastor to every person in your office. He will indicate who you need to be there for. It isn’t your job to make sure everyone likes you. It is only your responsibility to do your job and be polite to your coworkers.
“Open Office”, Courtesy of Jose Losada, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Home Office”, Courtesy of Ian Dooley, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Busy Office”, Courtesy of Damir Kopezhanov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Praying”, Courtesy of Patrick Fore, Unsplash.com, CC0 License