A Newcomer’s Guide to Office Politics in Canada

How to Build Networks of Support

Office politics – you have probably seen this term being thrown around within online professional spheres, such as LinkedIn, blogs, or podcasts. Put simply, the term is often used to speak disapprovingly of office culture. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the activities, attitudes, or behaviors that are used to keep power or an advantage within a business or company.”

Despite the negative connotations, navigating office politics in Canada is crucial for professional growth. It’s your relationships, as much as your skills, that open doors to new opportunities. However, understanding and navigating the office isn’t intuitive for most, especially newcomers to Canada.

That is why we have compiled some tips to keep in mind when navigating organizational politics.


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Levels of Office Politics

Indeed.com Canada has developed a helpful guide to outline the dynamics of office politics. Here is their breakdown, ranging from low to high politics.

Low politics

Everyone follows the same rulebook. There are written rules and regulations, managers have written protocols, and results are prioritized over relationship-building between team members. Promotions have specific criteria that must be met, and job descriptions are thoroughly outlined.

Moderate politics

Unwritten rules start determining the game. Because this is still a moderate level of politics, they serve as a complement to the written rules. Conflicts are rare and quickly resolved, and employees are team players. Overtime happens from time to time, and so does task sharing.

High politics

According to Indeed, a highly political workplace is one where managers favour some employees over others, and hand out privileges based on that favourability. Company culture is more important than performance. Although this can be stressful (since you’re being assessed on qualities that go beyond your work) it provides fertile ground for career advancement.

Very high politics

A workplace such as this can distract from the job. Both productivity and career advancement suffer. Some people can be very uncomfortable in these types of office environments, while others thrive.

Self-Reflection Questions for Navigating Office Culture

While understanding the environment you’re in is important, it’s also important to understand yourself. Before you can begin to interact with any community, it’s important to reflect on what your needs are in a professional environment — not to mention on how you’ll know when those needs are being violated or how you’ll effectively advocate for yourself.

What are your core needs in a professional environment? Consider factors such as safety, respect, autonomy, collaboration, recognition, meaningful work, clear communication, feedback, balance, and fairness.

Example: My core need is for clear communication, ensuring that expectations and deadlines are clearly defined to avoid misunderstandings.

How do you define these needs for yourself? Take time to explore what each need means to you personally and how it manifests in your work life.

Example: I define clear communication by ensuring that instructions and expectations are conveyed in writing, with the opportunity for clarification if needed, to minimize misunderstandings.

What are your non-negotiable boundaries? Identify boundaries that are essential for your well-being and effectiveness in the workplace. This could include boundaries around workload, communication, personal space, or even ethical considerations.

Example: One of my non-negotiable boundaries is maintaining a healthy work-life balance, which means avoiding taking on excessive overtime or weekend work commitments.

How do you communicate your needs and boundaries effectively? Consider different strategies for assertively expressing your needs and setting boundaries while maintaining professionalism and respect.

Example: When facing an overwhelming workload, I proactively communicate with my manager to negotiate deadlines and prioritize tasks, ensuring my workload aligns with my capacity.

Strategies for Navigating Office Politics

No matter what level of office politics you’re dealing with, creating networks of collaboration is an essential part of success in the Canadian workplace. Build trust with your colleagues by promoting open honest communication, avoiding gossip, and focusing on collectively producing high-quality work.

Here are 3 quick tips to help you create a culture of support.

Insert small positive interactions into your workday: Foster goodwill and build rapport with your colleagues by engaging in small, positive interactions throughout the day. A friendly greeting, a supportive comment, or a gesture of appreciation can go a long way in strengthening relationships.

Reach out to people outside your department: Expand your network by reaching out to individuals you don’t typically interact with. Take the initiative to introduce yourself, ask about their work, and express interest in collaborating on projects or initiatives. Building relationships with a diverse range of colleagues can provide valuable insights and opportunities for professional growth.

Resolve conflict respectfully: Conflict is inevitable in any workplace, but how you handle it can make a significant difference in maintaining positive relationships. Practice active listening, seek out win-win solutions, and refrain from passing judgment on others. By approaching conflicts with empathy and a commitment to respectful communication, you can navigate challenges effectively and even strengthen your relationships.



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