Advice column: I don't like the office politics in my new job

Dear Ash

I recently moved to a new firm and am beginning to wonder if I have made a huge mistake. I am finding it difficult to fit in with the small team, as there seems to be a culture of backbiting as well as an inherent competition between my colleagues as to who can pander most to the boss. This is not the type of environment I am used to, as in my previous role we all worked together as a team and even socialised together. I have attempted to make efforts to get to know my team, but they only seem interested in how I am getting on with the boss. I have not long been in my team, and I do not want to be accused of jumping from one role to the next, but working in this environment is beginning to take its toll.

Ash replies:

Having the right social mix at work can be, for some, just as important as the quality of work, although there are others for whom office politics are not a primary concern and they can switch off from any tensions related to such issues. You seem to be in the former category, and this is not a good or bad thing: you just need to know how to manage the situation.

As you have recently started in the role, it is important to give yourself a certain amount of time in order to attempt to adjust. This may initially involve lowering your expectations of your colleagues in order to avoid any disappointment, as it seems you are looking to replicate the type of work environment you enjoyed previously. Realistically, you may never be able to have the same degree of camaraderie and friendship in the workplace. Once you have accepted this, you need to decide whether there are other aspects of the role that you do enjoy, e.g. the quality of work, work/life balance, pay and conditions. If there are other positives, I suggest you concentrate on these and attempt to give yourself at least three to six months in order to see if you feel any better after this period. During that time, you could attempt to set up some social nights or lunches in order to get to know others a bit better. It may be that outwith the pressures of work, some of your colleagues are not as bad as you may have initially thought. How we react to a difficult situation or environment is the only thing we do have control over. Although I appreciate that the current work environment may not be to your liking, do not let it change your positive outlook and attitude to life. You seem to be a friendly, sociable and outgoing person, and this may be perceived as a threat by some of your colleagues who are not of that nature. Therefore, rather than be defeated by the negativity in your surroundings, continue to challenge this and be yourself. Bear in mind that your boss clearly determined that you were the correct fit for the team, so give yourself some time in order to assess this for yourself.

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice, contact Katie Wood, manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or KatieWood@lawscot.org.uk

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