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7 Ways to Stay Above Office Politics

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." One of Michael Corleone's more memorable quotes from the third installment of "The Godfather" reminds me a lot of the allure of workplace politics.

Like most social primates, people on the job are usually keenly attuned to the way individuals in their workplaces function together ... or fail to do so. And if you're like me, dysfunction in the office can easily turn into a major distraction. Unless you're part of the solution, you're apt to make yourself part of the problem -- and you can easily compromise your own professional demeanor.'s Margot Carmichael Lester offers a nice list of pointers titled "Seven Ways to Handle Your Dysfunctional Office." Even if you don't consider your working environment downright dysfunctional, these tips are a good way to refocus and avoid being pulled back in.

1. Step away from the action. View workplace dramatics as if they were occurring in "The Office" or any other fictional organization. Make yourself a spectator, not an actor.

2. Remain in control. "One way to stay functional is to avoid returning fire -- no matter how under siege you feel," Lester writes. In a battle of egos, let your antagonist think he's won. There's no advantage in letting would-be opponents control your reactions.

3. Stay focused. Workplace dysfunction is endlessly diverting, but it's a productivity-killer. Stay above the fray to get ahead. "Act how you think a professional should act, no matter how enticing it is to come to their level," marketing administrator Heather Millen advised Lester.

4. Tune out. A pair of headphones can be a wise investment to block office negativity.

5. Enlist allies. Career coach Marty Nemko suggests that one or two sensible colleagues can help you form "an island of sanity amid the maelstrom," whether the purpose is laughing off the craziness or finding solutions. (A personal aside: I'd suggest you proceed with extreme caution in applying this tip; it's easy enough for a clique like this to turn into another symptom of the problem it intended to address.)

6. Look for patterns. Donna Flagg, principal of learning and productivity specialist The Krysalis Group, suggests that understanding (but not feeding) the dysfunctional habits of colleagues can help you navigate recurring problems.

7. Leave. Ending on a blunt note, sometimes it's best to take yourself gracefully out of an irreparable environment. "Our research of these situations has shown that it's always the good and talented people that the organization loses when there is dysfunction, because they can go other places," workplace expert Billie Blair, author of All the Moving Parts and president/CEO of Leading and Learning, told Monster. "Those who can't simply stay and manage to endure."

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