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June 2018

4 ways to rise above damaging office politics

Every office has its share of drama. There are attorneys who take credit for others’ work and those who self-promote at the expense of their colleagues.  And most every firm has someone who constantly complains, as well as a staff member who perpetuates rumors.

Some of this office posturing is harmless, says 15-year legal consultant Jamy J. Sullivan. She says left unchecked, such politicking not only erodes office culture, but it might also affect your success on the job – and your mental health.

In her recent article for the ABA Senior Lawyers Division’s Experience magazine, “Office Politics Wearing You Down? Not Anymore!”, Sullivan, who is executive director of Robert Half Legal, shares a handful of strategies to help you best navigate the politics.

  1. Build alliances and avoid cliques. Develop connections with people at all levels of your organization, and strengthen all your relationships based on trust and respect.

  2. Don’t get involved when colleagues compete for power. If two colleagues have an adversarial relationship, don’t take sides. Instead, remain objective and focused on your work.

  3. Showcase your successes, but don’t brag. Create awareness among management about your success, but do so diplomatically. When one of them asks about your progress on a certain matter, share key accomplishments or an approach that advances your client’s interest.

  4. Don’t let colleagues hijack credit for your work. If this happens, take time to be objective and be diplomatic in setting the record straight. You might start with, “To clarify, what [person] is trying to explain is that…” and then clearly describe your participation in the work. Going forward, find opportunities to share your achievements with those who matter.

“Understanding your law firm’s political landscape is important in successfully navigating office dynamics,” Sullivan says. “But don’t allow yourself to get drawn into circumstances that could compromise your reputation and credibility.”

Focus on respect and professionalism. By maintaining your integrity you’ll go a long way toward achieving a successful, lasting career.

The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.
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