As soon as your business has more than just one employee, you're going to have office politics. It's a natural result of the competition employees have with one another in the workplace, and it's a major part of everyone's working life.

When it comes to office politics, you have two choices: you can try to ignore it, or you can choose to learn how to maneuver through it. The benefits of getting really good at office politics are well worth your time and energy.

To survive and thrive in your business, give these five tips a try.

1. Always conduct yourself like the professional you are.

Cultivate and maintain a reputation for being positive and helpful while striving to remain objective. Listen and gain information, offer advice when appropriate, but avoid contributing to rumors and spreading gossip when conversations become personal. Think before you speak, because what seems trivial to you may be very important to someone else. Your comments carry weight with those around you. Thoughtless comments are all too often easily misunderstood and misconstrued and can be used against you later by unscrupulous individuals.

2. Reach out to the right people for help.

There is power in numbers but think carefully about who you include in your conversations. Solicit information and advice as needed but seek out only the people you actually need help from to get your job done. Avoid self-promotion and taking credit for other people's work. Communicate openly and honestly with people you trust, and be polite but reserved with people you don't. Remember: Anything and everything you say may eventually be heard by everyone in the entire organization. Before speaking, make sure you're okay with that.

3. Find out who the key people are in your organization.

Consider rank and experience, but also look beyond official titles and seek out people who actually get things done. Identify those individuals who attract others, who seem indispensable to the organization, and who possess a deep understanding of how the organization runs. Observe how these key players interact with others, and how their interactions contribute positively (and negatively) to the organization. Align yourself with them.

4. Protect and defend your team.

Protect your coworkers and team from attacks by others. Take the initiative to resolve disputes quickly at the highest level possible, and stop disagreements from spreading into department-wide battles, or disputes with vendors or customers.  

5. Don't ignore office politics, embrace it.

Because people are political by nature, accept that politics are part of the daily routine. Always strive to build constructive relationships with co-workers, employees, and management. By doing so, your actions will help you avoid those who use politics to gain power, gain an advantage at someone else's expense, promote hidden agendas, and use private, confidential information against others.