Navigating office politics is a job role in itself

The gradual return to the office for many employees has come at a fragile time. For me, the office environment is a brand new experience and one I’m adapting to every day.

As the government announces a return to office-based working post the gruelling stages of the pandemic, it begs to differ whether workers are ecstatic to return or wracked with angst about the idea. COVID-19 has upended the lives and norms of almost everyone, yet dealing with the cacophony of various office characters was eased. I recently started an office role, where hot-desking and team meetings have become a regular occurrence.

Of course, I’ve worked in a team before, but the difference with the office is the various personality traits, communicative methods and complex dynamics that come into play. In my cramped space, we all work under the same department but express different ways of achieving our objectives.

At the best of times, I’ve managed to meander my way through constructive criticism however much it pains my sensitive soul. Where I would find conversations abrupt and slightly harsh, others believe this to be a normal way to communicate. I put this down to a generational gap and longevity in a certain role. Although I’ve somehow managed to adapt efficiently so far, it’s not always easy to do. My tone has been described as “fluffy” and not direct enough when overseeing a project. I try not to blame myself for being kind and gentle to colleagues, particularly with those senior to me. I also take into account that I’m in brand new and daunting position.

However, I do understand the need for clear-cut messaging. There are those in the office who are quiet with their heads down, those who bring the camaraderie to the room and those wish to only succeed and not form friendships. This is a challenging environment and one where my exhausted interpersonal skills are pushed to the limit.

I’ve learnt a lot already and I’m only 2 months in. I’ve learnt to always be myself, to not try to hard to fit in and always offer a helping hand. I know that there will always be colleagues who are straight-talking, but a slight adjustment is needed during these inexplicable times. A disease has ravaged our communities, taken our loved ones and transformed our social and working lives.

To placate those feeling anxious, the office should cater to all. A nurturing workspace must prevail if the government is so hellbent on everyone returning to it.