Steering Your Way Around Office Politics as a Blind or Visually Impaired Employee

Among the numerous challenges of working in an office are the conflict and the tension created by office politics, but when two or more people work together, it’s inevitable. When we spend eight, nine, or 10 hours a day at the office, it starts to feel like we’ve got a second family there. Drama included. Of course, the drama leads to conflict and tension within the staff. Try as we may, sometimes it gets difficult to stay above the fray.

I’ve worked for companies with 10,000 or more employees to companies with less than 20 employees, none of which were immune to office politics. Those places and the people I worked with taught me some valuable lessons about communication skills and interpersonal skills.

Those of us who are blind or visually impaired might find it a bit tricky to steer around these situations. Recognizing nonverbal communication, like facial expressions or hand gestures, leave us, well, in the dark. At times, it may not be obvious to know who is in conflict without asking another coworker. Which, in and of itself, is like treading on mud. It quickly becomes a sticky, ugly mess we should have avoided.

Here’s a little guidance for side-stepping office politics.

Pop art drawing of a close up of a woman's mouth whispering to another woman

Guidance for Side-Stepping Office Politics

Keep Relationships Professional

In general, it is best to conduct yourself professionally when it comes to matters in the office. It’s a way of showing managers and coworkers that your work isn’t influenced or motivated by personal feelings. I call it relationships at arm’s length.

Developing professional relationships is expected in the workplace. Of course, sometimes they do cross the line into personal, and even romantic, ones. The closer you get with coworkers, the easier it is for you to open up to them and vice versa. There lies the risk.

Friendships do grow in the workplace. No way to deny it, but beware of its perception to others. If there’s turmoil involving a friend, you may feel the pressure of taking sides.

Show Kindness and Gratitude

I learned it’s a good idea to be kind with everyone in the office. For one thing, you never know when you might need help from one of them. Ideally, develop a respectful kind of trust with those around you. Find ways to start conversations. Be truthful and sincere with your words. Avoid the temptation to criticize others. If a coworker helps you complete a task, always express your gratitude regardless of the task’s significance. Find a way to reciprocate. Offer to help whatever way is possible.

Don’t Get on the Gossip Train

About the time you get well acquainted with coworkers, gossip is knocking at your office door. There’s nothing wrong being present when it begins. It’s a problem if you start participating in it though.

When I found myself in that kind of situation, I would politely listen for a minute or so, but I’d excuse myself with a respectable reason: bathroom stop, more coffee, or something else. Heck, if you use a dog guide like me, he makes a fantastic excuse to step away at any time.

Experience taught me that hanging around with the known gossipers would get someone labeled as one too. So judge your situation carefully.

It may be impossible to avoid office politics completely, but use these tactics to steer around it as much as possible. What ideas or advice do you have? Hit the comment button and tell me how you side-step it too!