No matter how hard we try to get away from the drama of IT and tech office politics, they have a way of sneaking up on us. Whether you’re just starting a new job or you’re working your way up the ladder, it’s essential to know how to handle your specific workplace environment. No two companies handle their politics the same way. Fortunately, there are a number of best practices that can help you keep your head above water no matter where you work — the important part is to put them into play and avoid letting drama get the better of you.

Neutrality, Above All Else

The more important the topic at hand, the more things seem to devolve into an “us versus them” mentality. Your coworkers will want you to take a side and join them in their crusade. As enticing as this may seem — especially if you really do favor one side over the other — don’t give in. Sometimes staying neutral can strain certain relationships; as long as you feel confident that it won’t break them, stick to your guns. Make it clear to everyone that you understand where both sides are coming from.

**Of course, this doesn’t mean you lack the ability to be passionate or “fight” for what you believe in. The point here is to make sure you pick the battles worth fighting, and more often than not, the corporate “goo” is not the right battle.**

Do Your Recon Work

When you’re new to a job, one of the first things you should do is understand the workplace politics landscape. What topics, behaviors, and opinions are off-limits? A great way to crack this nut is by simply observing. Keep a close eye on what is causing stress or discomfort in your office, and take note if you see a pattern emerging. More often than not, a week or two of observation will give you plenty of information to go on.

Pinpoint Your Office Advocates & Adversaries

Everybody has them: your work friends and work foes. It pays to sort out who is who early on. The same way we have professional networks outside of our jobs, we have networks inside, too. Building strong relationships with your coworkers is a given. Pay attention to the people you’re unable to relate to on a personal or professional level, especially if you observe them involved in your workplace drama. Unfortunately, some people are naturally more drawn to chaos, and you will want to stay out of their path as best you can.

Be Forthright and Open

Mistakes happen. If you find that you’ve committed a blunder at your workplace, own up to it and make amends. Likewise, ask directly if there are any keys to preventing future gaffs. Show that you’re willing to learn from your mistakes and “play nice” in your office politics game.

Never Take It Personally

It can be a challenge to separate yourself from your job, and office politics do feel awfully personal at times. Remember that politics are most often the result of people wanting to do the best job they can, and that you’re all working toward the same goals. Even when it feels personal, remember that it’s your role — not you — in question.

When it comes to politics in the workplace, do your homework and choose to be the better person, and you’ll be on the right track for this and future jobs.