Are Workplace Politics Destroying Your Business? Here’s How to Fix It

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Written By Obaid Ur Rehman

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Because your workers’ efforts are so crucial to the success of your company, it’s critical to preserve employee happiness across the board. Although it could be simple for your company’s top executives to make choices that benefit themselves, it is your duty as a leader to reduce office politics and guarantee that each choice helps the business as a whole.

According to Chris Chancey, the founder of the hiring firm Amplio Recruiting, office politics are a result of the dynamics of power that exist among coworkers.

According to Chancey, “people use these power dynamics to serve their personal interests or the interests of a group they are involved with.” Given that people are innately political and would go to whatever lengths to further their own interests, such conduct is unavoidable.

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Although workplace politics may be either beneficial or harmful, managing partner David Frankel of executive consulting company Slingstone Group stated that there would always be some type of politics in the workplace. It is your duty as a leader to prevent and combat unfavourable political conduct at work.

“Everyone comes to the table with their own personal ambitions, egos, aspirations, and agendas, and there is always going to be some amount of compromise, negotiation, and politicking in order for someone to obtain what they want,” said Frankel. When personal incentives do not coincide with those of the firm, this becomes an issue.

How office politics affect the workplace

While bigger firms are often associated with a bureaucratic, political structure, startups and small enterprises aren’t exempt from this issue. When founders, investors, and workers cannot come to terms on a shared vision for the firm, Frankel claims that politics may infect the corporation.

Perhaps the founders’ strategic visions diverge, or they disagree on whether to seek outside funding, or the board has concerns about their adherence to a certain sales approach, according to Frankel. “Perhaps some workers believe they aren’t receiving enough recognition, payment, or opportunities for their excellent job. Without effective leadership, these problems may persist and employees may begin to priorities their own interests above those of the business.

Your company may suffer if unfavourable office politics start to develop. Office politics may drive a wedge between coworkers, managers, and employees, which might lead to a difficult and unpleasant work environment. Additionally, it may impact staff morale, productivity, and performance. Workplace politics are likely to cause employee turnover and harm your company’s brand if they are not handled. The political conduct can potentially have legal and financial repercussions, depending on how bad it is.

It is crucial to swiftly recognize political conduct and fairly impose disciplinary punishment when necessary in order to prevent these possible repercussions.

Positive political conduct among workers has the opposite impact on your company. Workplace politics, for instance, may be advantageous if workers do good activities and have a beneficial impact on others. It may be utilized to foster interpersonal ties among staff members, enhance performance and behaviour, and bring about change. Positive political conduct will eventually boost employee morale and retention.

Examples of office politics

Pete Sosnowski, the HR director and co-founder of the resume-building website Zety, characterized political conduct in the workplace as using covert methods to advance one’s own interests inside the company. He continued by saying that office politics might make or kill your career.

Negative political behavior

The reverse of good political conduct, according to Chancey, is negative political behaviour. It is dishonest behaviour done at another person’s cost, such as seeing a colleague make a mistake on a project and then turning around to inform your employer and promising to fix it.

Negative political behavior can include:

  • Backstabbing a colleague
  • Blackmailing a colleague
  • Forming malicious alliances against other colleagues
  • Gossiping or spreading rumors about others
  • Intentionally withholding important information

Positive political behavior

Even while playing office politics is often a bad activity, it is possible to play politics positively.

“Identifying and connecting yourself with important influencers with the purpose of utilizing their influence for professional progress without sacrificing your principles or those of the business is an example of effective political conduct,” stated Chancey.

Positive political behavior can include the following:

  • Volunteering
  • Presenting a professional image
  • Complimenting and recognizing others

How to tell if your business environment is politicized

It’s crucial to pay attention and pinpoint the underlying problem if office politics are causing conflict inside your firm. There are various indicators that structural changes to your company may be necessary.

Frankel outlined five indications of a politically charged workplace environment:

  1. Personal benefits for an individual do not correspond to organizational awards.
  2. The best navigators are rewarded, but there is a “system” that has to be worked.
  3. Process takes precedence over urgency, and those who value the status quo start to feel frightened by change.
  4. People who consistently fail to provide outcomes are not dismissed or penalized.
  5. The typical employee has little access to and awareness of the company’s decision-making processes.

Other signs of bad office politics include the perception of a divide between lower-level workers and executives, secret meetings where confidential information is shared but not with the rest of the company, and top personnel quitting because they don’t see a route to promotion.

How supervisors can impact workplace politics

Your senior executives set the tone for your company’s culture and political climate. Supervisors should act in a politically correct manner to encourage morale within the organization.

Chancey suggests that a supervisor engage in the following actions to lessen unfavourable office politics:

  • Do the right thing not just for your team but also for the company.
  • Instead of avoiding people or being in a closed-off clique, network, align, and create strong ties across the business.
  • Establish strict guidelines that encourage candid feedback.
  • Put a stop to unfavourable political activity.
  • Don’t participate in workplace rumours.
  • Avoid excluding yourself from the workforce (distance often leads to negative power dynamics).

Supervisors must not only model good political conduct for the company, but also look into the causes of any poor political behaviour.

According to Sosnowski, “Such behaviours may be brought on by dysfunctional work structures or unjust treatment, but they can also be started by people who want to accomplish more than they are capable of, lack social skills, or simply find it difficult to abide by the company’s standards.

Sosnowski proposed developing a set of firm values, such as transparency, impact, and communication, and then recruiting staff who exhibit those values in order to prevent political conduct before it occurs. Additionally, he stressed how crucial it is to establish and maintain transparent organizational frameworks for rewards, promotions, reprimands, and other actions.

Let your staff members know their possibilities, what is within their reach, and how to get there, said Sosnowski. “Define the steps they should take to accomplish their objectives. Teach your staff how to develop wholesome connections and how to appreciate and be respected by others. Employees shouldn’t feel the need to participate in competitive or unfair methods if good actions are promoted and fair remedies are offered.

How to avoid workplace politics in your organization

A rising organization’s leadership must be committed to minimizing politics, and the best way to do this is to promote open communication and teamwork at all levels. To dismantle the dividing walls of negative politics at work, Frankel suggested the following actions.

1. Reduce distance from company decisions.

The typical employee automatically distances themselves from senior leadership on a daily basis when small businesses expand and add more structure, rules, and management layers. Management teams must be aware that politics may creep into even the most prosperous businesses as a result of this separation from daily operations.

Holding frequent meetings, town halls, and group meals will help teams communicate and cooperate. Ensure that everyone is aware of the company’s goals and discuss the difficulties it is experiencing in an open and sincere manner. Make all workers (not just CEOs and managers) stakeholders in the company’s success by giving them access to information. The team may actively participate in overcoming obstacles when leaders have faith in them and provide them with information about such issues.

2. Don’t tolerate political behavior.

The overarching business goals should serve as the primary yardstick for measuring everyone’s achievement. Make careful to quickly eliminate any “my first” conduct that even hints at appearing in a meeting or email. No matter who is involved or at what level inside the business, advancing personal objectives shouldn’t be rewarded. The moment leadership endorses political or bureaucratic conduct, it opens the door for it to proliferate across the workplace culture.

3. Demand accountability from all team members.

Each employee should know what their responsibilities are and how they contribute to the company’s success before being asked to perform. When the business achieves a significant milestone, it should be celebrated as a team accomplishment and the contributions of all levels of the organization, not simply the senior salesman, head engineer, or management.

Likewise, anyone who contributed to a mistake or failure should be expected to accept responsibility for their actions (including top management) in order to correct it and prevent it from happening again. Employees who are happy to receive credit for accomplishments but unable to accept blame for failures are more concerned with their individual success than the success of the business.

No matter how dedicated a leader is, Frankel added, “the workplace cannot be entirely depoliticized.” The influence that politics will have as a barrier to the company’s success, however, may be significantly lessened by leaders who make a determined effort to [be more open and transparent].

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