While interacting with other people in the workplace, everybody has their own style of behavior in trying to achieve their aims. Whether we are consciously doing so or not, we are all playing politics just by interacting with others.

It does not mean we are scheming or being malicious. It is just that playing politics is part of the natural way that we, as humans, interact with each other as members of society and this includes in the workplace.

Types of office politics players

We are all unique in how we interact with others. However, we can identify some specific categories into which certain behaviors fit.

These behaviors are quite common in the workplace and can have a big impact, so we need to know how to deal with them.

We have identified nine such categories or types of office politics players, but this is not a set number. You might think of more.

Please note that, while we have grouped the types of people in an office according to the types of political players you may come across, these are generic groupings and people might match more than one of these groups, or they might not be in any of these groups.

These are groups that we have created in order to give an example of the types of behaviors you will come across and how they affect office politics.

1. The Office Gossip

The office gossip is the person you will always find in the staff room or anywhere where there is a chance to gossip.

This person loves nothing more than spreading, passing, or learning about gossip and it makes their day.

The office gossip cares more about having the chance to gossip, than they care about the impact that their gossip can have on others in the workplace.

2. The Thief

The thief will take any opportunity they can to take credit for work, even when someone else has done all the hard work.

This person will not waste an opportunity to benefit from other people’s efforts if it advances their own cause.

You might not have experienced this yourself but beware that ‘The thief’ does exist in many businesses and is ready to take the glory for good work results, given half a chance, even when you did the work, and they did very little.

3. The Power Freak

The power freak is the person who sees themself as the rightful boss or manager even when their role does not match the authority they demand and that they consider themselves worthy of.

You might well have experienced this type of bossy person at work.

They are so busy telling others what to do that they sometimes do very little work themself. They might delegate and hand out tasks, even though it is not rightfully their job to do so.

Sometimes the power freak does work hard, and they deserve the power, but they boss others around even when they shouldn’t, including outside of work at work social events.

4. The Snake

The snake is the person who slithers through the company, aligning and smooching up to the people with power.

This person will not worry about the company structure but will instead focus on being friends with important people.

The snake can be someone who aligns themselves with their boss and is the first to run to the boss at every opportunity.

The snake also incorporates what some refer to as brown-nosing, which refers to a person who sucks up to those in power.

You might have experienced someone yourself in the workplace who always seems to be snuggling up to senior managers, whilst sometimes neglecting other colleagues.

This person is sometimes also known as a sycophant, meaning that they go over the top in aligning themselves closely to people of importance to further their own cause.

The snake should not be confused with someone who networks to build connections in a positive way. The snake networks but in a far more cunning way that is over the top.

5. The Clique Member

The clique member tends to form a clique with others, and they reject and exclude those whom they feel do not fit in with their clique.

Without being in this clique group you might feel excluded and less in tune with the in-crowd as it were, in the workplace.

A very common situation in which the clique member type can be seen is when a new employee comes into the company and this new employee is more ambitious than what others would like.

Hence, the clique members feel threatened, and they do very little to help the new person fit into their group.

6. The Restrictor

The restrictor is the person whom you cannot approach for several reasons. In this group of people, we include those who are volatile and that you are afraid to approach because you are not sure of what their mood will be.

In this group, we also have those who are resistant to change and for this reason, they are stuck in their ways, and it makes it hard to discuss anything with them that involves even the smallest change.

7. The Ruler

The ruler is the person who sticks incredibly rigidly to all the rules and who thus shows little flexibility even when flexibility is needed.

This person, through their rigidness, can disrupt the office and others around them through their inflexibility and lack of adaptability.

8. The Schemer

The schemer is the person in your workplace who will take any information that comes their way to manipulate it to their own benefit.

They are not afraid to take information, including gossip, and utilize it sometimes in an unfair way to gain an advantage.

This person would not be afraid to pass on information to others knowing that it could derail another person’s promotion plans, to have a better chance themself.

This person is sometimes disguised as a charmer, i.e., someone who seems to be really kind and sweet and, yet behind a colleague’s back, they can be very critical.

9. The Lobbyist

The lobbyist is always pushing for their own ideas to be used and they often fail to consider other people’s better ideas.

The lobbyist likes to try and change other people’s minds and will try and push other people to follow.

Maybe you have been in the company of a person like this and got so tired of trying to stand up to the lobbyist, that you just gave in for an easier life.

teaching managing office politics
>> See the Managing Office Politics training materials
Dr Valeria Lo Iacono