This is How Great Leaders Deal with Office Politics

— September 3, 2019

Politics occur on every level of human existence.

Any time there are two or more people in a space together, in any context, politics can and do exist.

Similarly, politics are bound to occur in every workplace – because humans are naturally political.

Every individual has their own agenda and personal ambitions. Often, these don’t align with everyone else’s, because in essence, different elements are competing for limited resources. This is bound to lead to uncomfortable political climates.

Employees participate in politics to secure their standing in the workplace.

However, some employees indulge in dirty politics; to affect the reputation of fellow coworkers, or to achieve instant recognition, or accomplish something beyond their control as quickly as possible.

It is important to recognize that politics can have a caustic effect on the organization. This can often be difficult to realize for leaders, as most organizations promote individuals who are politically perceptive; sometimes, managers and senior executives tend to propagate rather than hinder office politics.

But to most employees, politics signal an inconsistency between what should be done and what is really done, defeating their own efforts. This leaves most employees discouraged, only united against leadership – obviously, not an ideal situation for any workplace.

Your organization is at a loss if employees engage in dirty politics. Individuals who may not even be engaging in politics will find it very difficult to focus on work in a politically driven organization.

Leaders play a significant role in avoiding politics in the company. Smart leaders manage the tension within their teams to boost team performance and increase organizational efficiency.

In order to do so, the best bosses identify the psychological substructures of workplace politics and respond to it accordingly by:

1) Managing their own conduct;

2) Judiciously motivating others to do the same.

Let’s break this down into a series of actionable steps you can take to mitigate office politics and get your team back on track:

1. Define and Support Clear Cultural Values.

Review your company’s cultural values: do they clearly communicate the ethics and principles you would like to reinforce in the workplace?

An organization with a set of clearly defined, well-written values is able to recruit and retain people based on those values. Examples of such values are:

a) Valuing the success of the team over the individual.

b) Being honest, open, ethical and fair, and adhering to your word.

c) Showing a deep respect for human beings inside and outside of the company.

2. Strive to Create Job Satisfaction.

One of the causes of politics in the workplace may be job mismatch.

Your duty is to delegate responsibilities according to the specialization, qualification, and especially the interests of your employees. Ensure that your team members are clear on their KPI’s and accountabilities.

Individuals who enjoy their work feel loyalty towards their organization. Employees tend to indulge in politics when they are mentally free and not feeling challenged or innovative at work.

3. Maintain Transparency at All Levels.

Leaders must respect their employees in order to expect the same from them.

Keep reminding your team members of the organization’s goals and objectives and encourage them to be vocal about their work achievements. They should be able to express their perspectives and grievances in front of you.

Ideally, workplace issues should be addressed on an open platform as opposed to behind closed doors, so that everyone stays on the same page.

When such issues are discussed privately, individuals do not know what is being discussed with other team members and this may cause them to develop negative feelings towards them or towards the organization.

4. Take Communication Seriously

Effective communication is one of the keys to reducing politics in the office.

Discourage your employees from playing with words and direct them to pass on all organizational information in its true form. It is imperative that information is not manipulated at any cost.

Guide your team to use written modes of communication wherever possible to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications. Keep in touch with your team via emails and direct them to keep you in the loop.

You will be that much more aware of what is happening in your workplace and employees will not be able to fabricate information against anyone.

5. Remain Impartial at All Times.

If cultural values have been outlined in the workplace, they must now be lived up to by all team members, and especially senior leadership.

This suggests recruitments, promotions and lay-offs to be based on these values alone.

This, however, entails that hiring and promotions take place only when an individual is deserving of it, and that firing occurs when an individual is no longer achieving positive results.

Leaders are required to be unbiased in all situations. You must not act against any employee with the justification that his team member has spoken unfavourably towards him. Do not take into account what has yet to be proven.

If these guidelines are followed, you will find yourself successfully circumventing office politics and guiding a positive, united and steadfast workforce.

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Author: Paul Keijzer

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