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Office politics damages morale and harms company culture, leading to a drop in performance.
Office politics can be any of the following: the undermining of your authority, the silent sabotage of your vision and purpose, the backstabbing between colleagues or simply individuals operating with their own agenda.
Whether you’re playing it, trying to avoid it or currently on the receiving end of it, all parties involved become distracted and lose sight of the common goal and purpose which brought you together in the first place.
You have probably experienced it or witnessed it at some point in your career. And you’re not the only one.
According to research from recruiter Adecco, one third (33%) of UK workers cite office politics as a major contributing factor to feelings of unhappiness in the workplace and such negative feelings are having a significant impact on people’s working lives.
Nearly a third (29%) of UK workers spend every Sunday dreading the coming working week and a worrying 28% of workers admit that they fear going into work so much that they have called in sick.
So, here’s my take on what should you know about office politics and, more importantly, how to deal with it in your business.
#1 Business is tough enough
The external market place and business arena is constantly changing, and as we know, the old rule book no longer applies.
Changing dynamics in competitors; the digital revolution, new regulatory frameworks supported by new legislation (the list could go on) means business is tough enough…and that’s just looking through our external lens.
If you’re distracted by internal fighting, you lose sight of your common goal and purpose.
If the leadership team or department heads or those involved in office politics are not on page what chance to the rest of the employees, or customers or strategic partners or key stakeholder groups have in understanding what you stand for.
You’ve taken your eye of the ball and I can guarantee you, your competitors haven’t.
If everyone is aligned behind a common goal and purpose you can move mountains. In good times it can focus the business, reinforcing the goal and ambition; in touch times, it offers an inspirational focal point to keep pushing on, in the knowledge that together you’re pursuing a goal worth achieving.
#2 Empire building is short-sited
Often office politics comes down to a leader building their own empire and doing what it takes to make this happen. Your second in command may be a wizard at his or her craft and produce high volumes of excellent work, but if he or she isn’t aligned to the needs of the overall business, it will ultimately work against them, rather than for them.
If your operations manager has an excellent eye for back-end processing systems but fails to brief the customer service teams on changes to the customer experience, the same thing applies.
Have you ever heard the saying ‘If you give someone enough rope, they’ll hang themselves’? If someone has the freedom to behave badly, he or she will eventually be found out. Either by their own doing or certainly by the output of their doing.
This might mean you need to play the long game, but having in place strong governance and policies, key performance indicators and performance objectives will make it difficult for politically inspired decisions.
#3 The cultural impact is tangible
Culture is the central nervous system for your entire organisation. It sets the beliefs, attitude and values for all those working there. If your organisation’s culture is being undermined by a handful of perpetrators then in my view, this has the biggest impact of all.
Not least to the parties directly involved, but on a wider scale as employees, not directly impacted, stand back, observe the actions and wait to see the consequences.
Clearly if politically driven behaviours which are not congruent with your culture are dealt with, then all is good in the world. The challenge occurs when these types of de-railing behaviours are not dealt with.
The central nervous system of the organisation takes a hit and the ramifications can be far reaching; reduced moral, demotivated employees, decrease in productivity, employee attrition…you get my point.
#4 The emotional vacuum is real
Being on the receiving end of office politics can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, anger, resentment.
Whilst this emotional vacuum may be gradual, it is very real. Adecco’s research cited an additional third of UK workers (36%) would consider leaving their employer due to such severe anxiety and more worryingly, one in ten (9%) have already taken that step due to such overwhelming feelings of unhappiness.
Your personal emotional wellbeing is on an equal footing to your capability to perform your role. It’s the energy source powering your performance, when it’s low, your performance is low. Office politics, therefore, ultimately benefits no-one.
Even the individual who thinks they are benefitting. The power is in the ‘whole’ organisation aligned and working together. Make this happen and you have one powerful energy source.
Royston Guest is CEO of Pti Worldwide, author of #1 best-selling business growth book, Built to Grow and founder of livingyourfuture. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram. Check out his weekly blog at https://www.roystonguest.com/blog.
How Office Politics Can Sink Your Business