The 7 Most Annoying Office Politicians – And How to Cope With Them

The 7 Most Annoying Office Politicians – And How to Cope With Them

Office politiciansWe all have to deal with irritating people in the office.

From the “patroniser” to the “cheapskate” and the “unsociable sod” to the “grump;” it’s a fact of working life.

But some of these world-class irritants are more dangerous than others.

We call these people the “office politicians” and they could cause real trouble for you in the future – if you let them.

If you’re a manager, then you MUST be on the lookout for these devious individuals. If you’re working with one, then below, you’ll find some tips on how to survive.

Let’s take a look.

1. The Clamberer.

This person will stop at nothing to get to the top of the ladder (they’ll clamber over you if they have to).

They really aren’t here to make friends and the best advice I can give you is to just keep out of their way!

Some of their worst crimes could include:

  • Taking credit for other people’s work.
  • Gossiping about others to make them look bad.
  • Telling tales.
  • Bullying and belittling.
  • General backstabbery.

But they know how to play nice and will keep people they think might be of use in the future close, so your boss may well be completely oblivious to this behaviour.

(You can see why these are the worst kind of office politician…)

What should you do?

Steer clear of them.

Don’t engage with any untoward behaviour and certainly don’t give them any information that might eventually come to bite you on the bum.

If things get too bad for you (or a co-worker), then you should speak up. Go to HR or your boss with an objective list of their offences (you should have witnesses).

Don’t get emotional and just give the facts – you don’t want it to come across as a personality issue rather than the real deal.

2. The Taker.

This person is incredibly good at gaining all of the help, information and advice they need from other people, without giving anything themselves.

You’ll find yourself helping them a lot, but when the time comes for them to help you, they’ll be “extremely busy” or “not really sure.”

If you’ve ever been in this position, I’m sure you’ll agree it can be very annoying.

What should you do?

Don’t get mad, get even.

Ok, no don’t do that either!

Just don’t give up. Keep badgering them until they give you what you need.

This might be annoying for you at first, but they will get the message in the end and will either…

  • Help you straight away next time (because they know you won’t give up).
  • Stop asking you for so much help (because then they don’t “owe” you).

Of course, if you’re brave enough and you think they’ll be receptive, you could always just have a word. But I’ll leave that to you.

3. The Suck Up.

I’m sure you’ve met one of these before.

They’re not necessarily malicious and won’t necessarily sabotage you (although they could) but they do get away with murder because they know how to work the boss.

The suck-up is the person who speaks loudly about their latest victory or offers to help “when you’re struggling” whenever the boss is in earshot.

They’ll probably attend and read everything the boss suggests (not a bad thing), make sure they work late when they’re around and might even ask you to big them up a little bit.

What should you do?

Most good bosses can spot a suck up a mile off.

And anyway, does it really affect you? Keep up your good work and your great results will speak volumes. Because that’s what matters to your boss – results.

4. The Skater.

Is there someone in your office who just seems to skate through life? Doing the bare minimum so no one can challenge them, but holding up the rest of the team in the process?

This is particularly frustrating if you really do care about your company and want them to do well.

What should you do?

Unfortunately, there’s not a great lot you can do.

As I wrote in the previous section, keep going, focus on your work and ignore what your co-workers are up to. Your hard work (and their lack of) will not go unnoticed.

5. The Manipulator.

This person collects and uses gossip to their advantage!

They’ll talk to Sabrina about Winston, to Winston about Jane and to Jane about Sabrina and Winston, whilst keeping everyone on side and completely unaware of their secret plotting.

(Kind of like a Game of Thrones ‘master of whisperers.’)

When they take a disliking to someone they really can have a serious affect on that person’s career, with their well-timed jabs, tension-mongering between co-workers and revealing personal information to sabotage reputation.

What should you do?

This is a difficult one to play really. You want to stay on the good side of the manipulator, but you don’t want to reveal too much about yourself, in case they use it against you in the future. Avoidance is probably the best option!

If you’ve already revealed too much, then be prepared, just in case there is a fall-out at some point in the future.

This blog should help you with that: How to Deal with Gossip at Work 

NB: the ‘manipulator’ is not to be confused with the more naïve office gossip who, yes enjoys a good chinwag, but would never intentionally hurt you or your career!

6. The Controller.

I’ve got to admit it. It can be pretty annoying when someone tries to start doing your job for you, or telling you how to do your job, especially when they’re less senior.

But the controller is the kind of person who, because of their own insecurities, purposely holds you back so you won’t become “as good as them.”

  • They won’t let you get involved in anything they’re dealing with.
  • Instead of teaching you how to do things, they’ll say “I’ll just do it myself.”
  • They’re put out by your successes.
  • They may openly undermine you.
  • They simply don’t play well with others.

If your manager is like this it can cause you real trouble because instead of motivating you and spurring you on, they are essentially holding you back.

What should you do?

Firstly, don’t be immature and don’t get dragged into a competition. This will only end in disaster (and usually one of you running to the manager and “telling.”)

  • Be proactive. If there’s something you want to learn, go out and learn it yourself.
  • Be firm. Tell them you don’t want them to do it, you want to learn how to do it.
  • Talk to your boss. If you see real opportunities for you to grow and add more to the team, speak to your boss so they can put the wheels in motion!

Like I keep saying, if you’re working harder, showing initiative, and developing yourself, your boss will know!

7. “The Knowledge.”

(Ok, so this one isn’t necessarily annoying!)

The knowledge is the secret driving force behind your entire business.

They know everything about everything and everyone and more importantly, they know the secrets to winning over pretty much everyone in that business.

They’re not a gossip, because they know knowledge is power and therefore don’t want to reveal how much they really do know. And (unless you’re unlucky) they’re not out to get everybody (like the manipulator or clamberer).

They’re happy with their position – and in most cases use it for good, not evil.

What should you do?

Get on the right side of them and they’ll support and advise you throughout your career – and in fact, they’ll love doing it!

If you’ve ever watched Suits – Donna is a great example of “the knowledge.”

Are you a manager?

If you’re a manager and you have any of the above politicians on your team, it’s high time you did something about it!

When it comes to harassment and office bullying, I’m sure you know exactly what you should do, but what about the in-between behaviours that simply cause trouble and drama?

It’s best to suss and stamp it out as early as possible!

  • Make it clear that certain behaviours are not acceptable.
  • Encourage open communication across your team.
  • Reward people based on work-done.
  • Follow up with employees when things don’t seem quite right.
  • Encourage teamwork and friendships across the team.

This article from Fast Company gives some tips for managers: How to Get Rid of Toxic Office Politics


So, we can all get stuck with these kinds of people from time to time – and yes it can be annoying.

But in most of these cases, unless you’re a manager, there’s not that much you can do.

Focus on your own job, your own work and your own success. Your boss will soon see through any bullsh*t. And if not, perhaps it’s time to move on anyway?!

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