Cleo’s Guide to Office Politics

Play to win – Georgia Clark presents your guide to the shifty set of behavioral codes known as office politics.

How to Win at Office Politics

Give credit where it’s due… and then some.

Always acknowledge co-workers contributions, especially in meetings with senior management. Often we only notice when something’s off the mark, as a job well done is what everyone’s getting paid for, but you know how you remember every meaningful compliment you’ve gotten? Everyone else does too. It’s easy, it’s great karma, and you win respect from everyone.

Work out everyone’s pet hates and pet likes

Knowing that Mira gets homicidal working overtime and loves anyone who’ll sit through her dodgy boyfriend stories of a Monday, or that Charlotte is a lethal weapon before her morning coffee but will eat out of your hand if you split a brownie with her at exactly 3.30pm is very, very useful information.

Be the cool, creative, fun one

Or at the very least do things like bring in homemade biscuits, make mix CDs for Friday afternoons, have a really funny anecdote from the weekend to tell, keep a box of Double Coat Tim Tams in your drawer, make handmade cards for people’s birthdays, get your desk buddy a coffee if they look wiped and generally have making your co-workers smile as a default thought process.

How To Do Stuff You Hate

There are some things you’re so damn good you can’t possibly conceive how it’s even a talent, and other things that’ll reduce you to a quivering mess, whether it’s asking for a raise, making a formal complaint about someone or public speaking at a function.

Get informed. Fear springs from the unknown. Your first step is working out the who, where, whys etc of what you need to do. If you want to ask for a raise but have never done it before, be sure your contract allows it, ask your friends who have done it what they did, make lists of why you deserve it, understand whose decision it ultimately is, and so on.

Role play. This will sure up the scenario you have to face and present it as an achievable, practical interaction. Grab a friend – ideally someone in a management position – and play out what you need to do. Together you can workshop the areas you’re unsure about, and by the end you should feel totally prepared for the real thing.

Fake it till you make it. Once in the hot seat, fake an easy-going attitude by consciously relaxing yourself (big breaths, positive visualization, the works), and being direct, honest and straight forward. It’s unlikely you’re making a complaint or asking for extra leave if you secretly think it’s not appropriate, so focus on communicating this self-belief, it’s very powerful. Remember, your boss is on your side, and wants to make the workplace work – they’re not your enemy (and if they are, maybe what you should be doing here is resigning!)

Lessons We Learnt from The Office

  • Don’t describe yourself as a “chilled out entertainer”.
  • Don’t publicly ask a co-worker out, especially if there’s a chance they’ll publicly turn you down.
  • Don’t mime doing all three members of The Corrs doggy-style. Or, for the matter, anyone.
  • Don’t stay in a dead-end job.
  • But if you are in a dead-end job, do devote a large amount of time winding up your idiotic co-workers with hilarious practical jokes.

What to wear

First day

Definitely: The same brand your boss was wearing when they interviewed you; anything high-waisted; Sass and Bide

Your Call: Brand new blister-inducing shoes; something fluorescent; Romance Was Born

You’re Fired: Your ‘I’m With Stupid’ shirt; anything tie-dyed; Sussan

Casual Friday

Definitely: Something Mischa B would wear to a So-Cal lunch date

Your Call: Something your mum would describe as ‘fun’

You’re Fired: Something that makes fun of another co-worker’s dress sense

Lunch with the Boss

Definitely: Below the knee and classy

Your Call: Above the knee and sexy

You’re Fired: Hotpants and high heels

Christmas Party

Definitely: Your best ‘Cate Blanchett’

Your Call: Your best ‘Chloe Sevingy’

You’re Fired: Your best ‘Courtney Love’

What to do

First day

Definitely: “Where’s the best place to get a good lunch around here?”

Your Call: “You guys wanna all grab some lunch together?”

You’re Fired: “Right, who’s the LAST person I wanna get stuck having lunch with?”

Casual Friday

Definitely: Compliment your desk buddy on their excellent fashion snaps

Your Call: Describe their fashion sense as ‘bold’, ‘ironic’ or ‘masculine’

You’re Fired: Ask if they need something to change into

Lunch with the Boss

Definitely: Let them set the conversation agenda – only talk career goals/ real estate/ bastard ex-boyfriends if they get the ball rolling first

Your Call: Answer their questions about office politics truthfully, as opposed to strategically

You’re Fired: Insisting on another bottle of wine, the wait staff’s incompetency or any form of dancing

Christmas Party

Definitely: A Polaroid camera; chatting with lots of new people; having a laugh on the d-floor

Your Call: A video camera; doing shots with lots of new people; having a pash on the d-floor

You’re Fired: A make-believe camera; hazing a new person by making them your slave; having a spew on the d-floor

Do U Spk Email?

If you’re on the receiving end of someone’s lame group email, hit them back with a “Thanks so much for the update on your flatmate’s charity run across China – what an inspiration! Can you send these group emails to my home address, rather than work? It’s

Inbox pollution punishing your productivity? Only log on to send and receive messages at certain times of the day – if it’s that urgent, people will learn to call. Then sit back and enjoy the vast stretches of your peaceful email-free zone…

Play safe. Never send an email you wouldn’t feel comfortable everyone finding out about. It’s embarrassing to hit reply all on an affectionate email to your boyfriend (aka Puppy Wuppy), not so fun when you’re sprung sending something about company secrets/ plans to buy pills/ Puppy Wuppy Number Two.

If you haven’t gotten a reply you need, the trick is to be polite but persistent. Simply reforward the original email, with “Just following this up. Thanks”. After five of these babies, you’ll get the answer you need.

For emergencies

* “Absolutely no rush, but by Friday would be all kinds of fabulous!”

* “I don’t believe in bribery, but if you can do this for me and the block of Topdeck on my desk goes missing, I won’t say a word…”

* “Cheers, big ears!”

For suckers

* “I know I’ve said this before but, [insert inane comment everyone’s been trying to ignore]”

* “I’m flat-out/ totally stressed/ really overworked at the moment [chances are everyone else is too]”

* “Cheers, pap smears!”

Troubleshooting (or How To Deal When You’ve F*cked Up)

Everyone makes mistakes, even super amazing people like Uma Thurman (My Super Ex-Girlfriend? Jeez Mumu, you’re Tarantino’s muse for chrissakes). But someone who lands themselves and their co-workers in hot poo is never as annoying as someone who won’t deal with the consequences. Passing the buck is a surefire way to getting passed over for a promotion – mature humility is the key.

Step 1: Acknowledge you were wrong, and apologize

Step 2: Explain what you learnt or why it happened (without getting defensive)

Step 3: Tastefully move on

The Golden Child Example

Hi everyone,

I wish to formally apologize for missing last week’s deadline. I realize this has thrown a number of our team member’s schedules out, and want to make it clear I take full responsibility for this. I have since completely reorganized and streamlined my work flow so it won’t happen again.

Looking forward to sharing some new ideas in tomorrow’s meeting, as well as a few dozen Krispy Kremes (nothing says sorry like extra calories, right?)



The Devil Child Example


look, it’s really f*%ked i’m getting blamed for the shit hitting the fan last week. maybe next time alecia + danielle can let me know more in advance when they want stuff done (in my old job we didn’t just assume it was the same deadline every month). and no offense, but if everyone on level two wasn’t getting pissed @ the pub every lunch, they’d probably be more productive too.


Gossip Girl

How to deal when…

Someone starts bitching about a co-wo* to you.

Fantasy Land: “This topic of conversation is not appropriate for the office. Not only should the workplace be a harmonious environment free of judgment, but I believe your childish comments are merely projections of your own insecurities. Now if you don’t mind, I must finish polishing the ivory I’ve constructed this lovely tower out of.”

Planet Cleo: You have a few options. The old ‘shut down/ freeze out’ method works pretty well: simply refuse to participate. Contributing nothing to a line of conversation dries it up pretty fast. You can try and get to the bottom of the problem – if the bitchee has grounds for complaint (laziness, bad attitude etc), you can help them work out a practical solution rather than schoolyard goss. Or you can play along, which may lead to:

You’re caught bitching about a co-wo.

Fantasy Land: “My comments were to highlight a problem area I believe needs to be addressed.”

Planet Cleo: It’s perfectly normal to not be besties with everyone. Some people just suck. Reality bites, and we all know how good it feels to get all that angst off your chest! Just save it for your flatmates, your best friend, your mum… anyone not at work! Because if you’re caught dumping on a co-wo, be prepared for a loss of respect and trust, and a stretch of major, major groveling and seen-the-light angelical behaviour.

You find out a co-wo is bitching about you.

Fantasy land: “I’m comfortable in myself and my abilities. Playa haters can’t bring me down. By the power of Grayskull, I am HE-MAN!!!!”

Planet Cleo: We’re not superheroes – it’s awful finding out that everyone isn’t whispering about how fabulous your new shoes are behind your back. Empower yourself by taking action against office bullies. There are people you can go to before speaking to your boss, like HR or a trusted office buddy –it’s your right to feel comfortable and secure at work. Life’s too short to let someone else intimidate you.

*co-wo = co-worker

The World According to Ryan

Random funniness with Rove Live’s Ryan Shelton

Talk the Talk

“I worked at General Pants for six years. It’s very ‘cool’, but all of use who worked there weren’t really that cool, so we were constantly trying to keep up this façade. I’d walk up to people and be like, ‘What’s up guys’, and then walk away thinking, ‘What’s up’? What am I talking about? I never say, ‘what’s up?’”

Cleo says: Be yourself. Hip lingo is a dangerous territory to put a vowel wrong in.

Need to Fire Someone?

“Framing people is the best way to do it. Plant something on them, and then say, ‘I think you’ve got something in your pocket’. Then that’s stealing. As much as they deny it, there’s evidence, in their pocket. ‘You’ve got a pencil sharpener in your pocket, don’t you?’. ‘No’. ‘Well, let’s have a look… You’re fired’.”

Cleo says: Make sure you do this with others present, as it’d be hilarious.

Your Special Day

“I hate singing Happy Birthday. At Rove, there’s a running joke that everyone sings Happy Birthday, but no one actually sings the words, everyone loudly sings like, ‘Blah, blah blah blah’. Singing normal Happy Birthday is a no-win situation. No one actually wants to be singing it, and the person being sung to is so embarrassed, so the only person really excited by it is the person bringing out the cake, ’cause it’s their moment in the sun.”

Cleo says: It’s your birthday, so you choose what song everyone sings. Birthdays are more festive if everyone is belting out ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ in your honour.


About Georgia

I'm a young adult novelist with a weakness for hot nerds and cheese platters, not necessarily in that order. I am currently working on my third novel. I'm pretty excited about having just turned 30 because it means I can justify spending a lot of time thinking about homewares.
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