Office Politics 101: Going Along to Get Along Can Burn You


I’ve worked alongside an arrogant, fault-finding coworker for two years. According to his own press releases, Tom never makes a mistake.

If Tom fails to give me critical information, he blames the fallout on me, saying it’s because I wasn’t clear enough on what I needed. If Tom doesn’t return a client’s phone call, he claims it’s because he says he never got a message, insinuating that the client’s call routed first to me and I failed to the message. I could give you dozens of examples, but the bottom line is Tom blames me for every problem. While Tom occasionally does this with others, I experience the brunt of this problem as Tom’s and my job directly overlap.

While I’ve always found Tom’s behavior annoying, I’ve let him get away with it. I could easily print out the emails that show I’ve sent him the information needed, but early in our work together when I tried to show him that the problem was on his end, he retaliated so fiercely that I decided to go along to get along.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when we returned to the office and were made aware that more of us may soon be laid off.  Tom frequently goes into our boss’s office and closes the door. I hear them laugh. I don’t know what they’re talking about, but I suspect Tom is escalating.

I have chosen to do my work and let my professionalism speak for itself.

This morning, I got my job review. My boss marked me down in multiple areas, which could place me on the layoff list.  He unfairly considers me the problem in all the situations where I let my coworker point the finger at me. I tried to set the record straight. He then said, “Emma, this has been going a long time.” In other words, what Tom has been doing has worked.

I left my review feeling I have no option for getting fairly rated.


What we don’t or won’t say can get us into more trouble than what we say. Your conflict aversion led you to swallow what you could have said, allowing Tom to cast blame on you.

Here’s your “hail Mary pass.” Don’t do what you accuse Tom of doing – finger-pointing. You consider your supervisor unfair, yet you never stood up for yourself. You undoubtedly see Tom as the problem because he shirks responsibility – but you’ve done the same thing.

Change this. Tell your supervisor know you learned a major lesson when he gave you your performance review – that you need to deal with problems when they happen and in a way that fixes them so they don’t repeat. Admit your culpability in colluding with Tom in a “who’s to blame” work relationship – and he may listen to you with fresh ears.

Alternatively, it’s too late and you’ll have learned a painful but needed office politics lesson.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016) and “Solutions.”Curry is President of Communication Works Inc.  Send your questions to her at or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.


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