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After working for years in large bureaucratic organizations, I became a certified life coach specializing in work relationships. You might think it’s ironic, leaving the workplace and then reentering it as a coach. I view it as a natural progression. I enjoyed working for outstanding leaders, with collaborative peers and supervising rising stars. I wish the workplace contained only those types of people.

I started my career wearing rose-colored glasses assuming all bosses and colleagues bought into organizations’ shared vision, mission, goals and values. I recall my first full-time position. A senior administrator told me I could ask questions about operational issues and not be concerned about negative consequences. One of that organization’s values was integrity. That boss asked a pointed question in a public forum regarding a borderline unethical action they had taken. Believing the administrator would appreciate my respectful and honest comments, I spoke up. I couldn’t read the administrator’s facial expression, but the looks received from seasoned professionals told me, I’d made a mistake. I hadn’t learned to read the tea leaves. Thanks to the political capital of mentors and other well-connected people the damage to my career was minimal.

That experience taught me to obey the traffic signals and look both ways before crossing busy streets. In other words, listen to what people say, discern the tone of those words and most importantly watch what they do under various conditions.

I learned that the key to success in organizational settings is to understand that office politics occurs wherever people gather; it’s relational . Like money and time, it is neither good or bad. What matters is how it is used. I also learned how to create win-win work environments through personal experiences, observations and research. I survived and thrived in dubious office situations and now want to help others do the same. Office relationships can be toxic, tolerable or win-win. Go for win-win. Why settle for less. Change your thoughts, change your destiny!