10 Great Ways to Rise Above Office Politics and Be a Winner in the Workplace

“Mondays aren’t so bad, it’s your job that sucks.” -Anonymous graffiti artist

It’s Monday again, groan… This is the exasperated refrain that can be heard around the world, in every language at the start of each new work week. In the photo of street graffiti above, we are cheekily chided: “Mondays aren’t so bad, it’s your job that sucks.” In a typical case of “it’s funny because it’s true”, the accusing words resonate with us. But are those irreverent words really true? Do the millions of people around the world who dread each Monday’s arrival really have jobs that suck? With all the drama, frenemies, nonsensical rules and un-stimulating environments many of us experience at work, maybe do have horrible jobs. Or maybe not.

Maya Angelou wrote “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” I’m with Maya. I can’t promise you that after reading this you’ll be bounding out of bed gushing with anticipation for the work week ahead, but here are ten tips to help you get out of your own way, and become a winner at work.

1. Be Strategic

Focus on what you are longing to achieve. When you go to work each day, you should have your life goals in mind. Do you want a raise or a promotion? Are you working at accumulating the downpayment for a house? Are you planning on starting a family? Concentrate on the future, and you will find yourself less concerned with gossip and petty complaints.

2. Take the High Road

When you’re stuck in close quarters with the same people for eight hours day after day, sooner or later someone is going to do something that will make you really angry. You’re only human, and tempers will flare. The key is to not let it get the best of you. As a person with big goals in mind, don’t ruin your reputation just to get a few moments of gratification by publicly venting your anger. In explosive situations, walk away, have a drink of water, take a break, but by all means do not blow your top. In the same vein, don’t resort to becoming passive aggressive and taking things out slowly on the person who upset you with sarcasm or political maneuvering.

3. Craft a Personal Vision

What do you want to be known for at work? How will accomplishments in this job affect future career aspirations? When I was fresh out of university as an audit assistant with Ernst & Young, I made a list of qualities I wanted to strive for in my work. “My Commitment to Excellence” was my professional manifesto, printed on an 11′ x 4′ card and posted on my cubicle wall. It listed a handful of values and practices I wanted to be held accountable for by myself, my colleagues and my bosses. This was probably taking it a bit far, and it makes me laugh to think of it now, but it helped me to go from being an unmotivated, mediocre student to a top performer at work.

4. Choose to be a Victor, not a Victim

Every situation in life comes with its own set of limitations; work is no different. There are inevitably going to be circumstances which occur at work which will be both unpleasant and outside your control: the sick day policy might change, you may have to suddenly start working shifts, there may be a wage freeze imposed. Only losers waste time pining over things they cannot control. Be a winner; decide today not to waste your time and energy complaining about things you can’t control. Get over it and move on.

5. Set Growth Goals

We all have things we can do better in life. You will not become a winner by basking in mediocrity. Commit to being much better than average. Set a goal to become one of the top 10% of performers at your workplace. Pay close attention to performance reviews, and create your own personal self-improvement plan. Get ongoing feedback from your colleagues and supervisors, and set yourself daily goals and measurable targets.

6. Become an Effective Communicator

It has often been said those who are able to communicate effectively have an advantage at work and in life. Make a decision to become one of the best communicators among your colleagues. Good communicators know how to effectively employ eye contact, body language, tone of voice, and they are adept at choosing the right words. Challenge yourself to speaking up, and to being courteous and friendly in every interaction. Most conflicts arise or are fueled by ineffective communication, so your new skills will go a long way toward helping you avoid workplace misunderstandings.

7. Embrace the Big Picture

If you’re going to be a winner in the work place, you’re going to have to trade in your myopic mindset for one that embraces the big picture. If you had your supervisor’s job, would you be spending time grumbling in the lunch room about the new policy on tardiness? Probably not. Make an effort to learn more about how the organization functions, why certain decisions are made, and what makes it tick. Finding out the reasons behind unpleasant mandates can give you a different perspective, and will neutralize the powerlessness that comes with not knowing why.

8. Stay Organized. Stay Busy.

My grandfather used to say “the devil finds work for idle hands to do”. Many people develop the habit of lack-luster performance out of sheer boredom. If you go to work every day waiting to be told what to do, watching the clock and longing for home time, you are bound to hate your job. You’re bored. It is no wonder you’ve become embroiled in office gossip and politics just to liven things up. Instead, make a commitment to go to work each day with a purpose. Have a list of the things you would like to accomplish, and volunteer to help out if you run out of things to do. In this way, you will no longer have time to wonder who is talking about you behind your back.

9. Think Win-Win

To truly be a winner in the workplace, you must learn to think win-win. This will require you choose to compromise, not to give in, but to evaluate all the options and choose a path that will not only benefit you, but all concerned. It’s a give and take. If you make a decision to work on this every day, you will develop the reputation of being a fair-minded person, and a good negotiator. You will find yourself gaining a lot more than you would have by selfishly fighting for your own gain.

10. Nurture Your Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm can be an elusive quality. Many of us only show it in response to exciting events, others hardly ever, and yet there are those who appear to exude it from within. An enthusiastic person has a winning attitude. They choose to see the opportunities in every challenge they face. They know how to generate energy and positive vibes even in the worst of circumstances. Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, wrote a groundbreaking book called ‘Man’s Search for Meaning‘. In it, he celebrates the kind of attitude it took to make it through a Nazi death camp alive. The person who is able to think positively in sticky situations, and devise a desirable conclusion, is the person who will win. Commit today to becoming an enthusiastic person.


Being a winner in the work place starts with a decision, it starts with you. Here’s to happier Mondays in the future!

Let me know what you thought of this post in the comments section, and if there’s anything else you would add to the list. If you liked it, be sure to share it with someone you care about.

12 Replies to “10 Great Ways to Rise Above Office Politics and Be a Winner in the Workplace”

  1. Great advice and very well-written. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

    Though not all the points will be applicable to everyone – and not all readers will be able to put all of them into action, due to personal limitations or those inherent on our current role – they are clearly worth striving for and represent helpful and valuable ideals to live by.

  2. Joya thank you for this enlightening piece. I always look forward to your articles as there is usually so much truth in them as well as a call to action.
    To add to what Linn said about “Smiling”. That is actually Number 5. in Dale’s Carnegie’s Principles for Enhancing Relationships and I can attest to the fact that it works wonders. I am presently pursuing the Dale Carnegie course through the Chamber of Commerce in Saint Lucia and it is definitely changing my perspective on life.

    I have made a committment to each week working on one of these principles in the workplace and my personal life. So far it’s working really well and I’m seeing the change in the way people react to me.

    If you are not familiar with the Enhance Relationship Priniciples, please checkout the following link:


    Thanks again for this piece. Looking forward to more great stuff from you.

  3. I start every morning – every single morning – with a big smile before even getting out of bed. It makes every day better, not only Mondays.

    I think you really capture the importance of realizing that you, and only you, are in control of your (work)life. We can all decide whether to stay bored and lazy, or happy and productive. I really believe that.

    At the same time, for me, still recovering from a work related fatigue depression, it’s not really important at all the be ‘the best’ at work. Not for the moment, at least. I’m not in the mood to compete. But I do want to be happy and content, and successful in doing what is asked from me in a manner that doesn’t drain my energy completely.

    Inspiring post!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing some of your personal insight, Linn!

      I agree with your point that it all comes down to mindset, and we are 100% in control of that. Thanks for introducing a principle that I have often been guilty of not highlighting: it is so much more important to be your personal best, than to be “the best”. Sounds like you’re already way ahead of the game. Best wishes as you continue on your journey of recovery. I am confident that you will emerge a stronger, lovelier and more grounded person than you were before.

      I am looking forward to your joining a discussion again in the future!

  4. Great Article once again Joya!!!
    Kill your work colleagues with kindness! if a fellow employee is deliberately setting out daily to make your day more challenging than it already is , or is purposely being uncooperative “ flick the switch” don’t give them the joy of breaking your spirit , smile and be extra pleasant to them, accept the challenges they send your way. From my experience they become frustrated and obsessed with finding ways for you to “screw up” they end up jeopardizing their own career while you succeed!


    1. Thanks for that great comment, Reeva! It’s easy to “hover” above all the drama when you’re focused on worthwhile goals. The “frenemies” may even end up being inspired by you! 🙂

    2. I like this too! Greeting challenging people with a smile and treating them with kindness. That’s the way to go!

  5. Wow! This blog is awesome Joya! Definetely know a few peeps I can share this with. I can also definetely use some of the tips given to improve my short comings. Really hoping to see a book from you someday.:)

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