Reducing Office Politics

Office Politics Can Get Out Of Hand Fast

“I hate the office politics here”.

Whether you are in a management or staff position, the taint of office politics can sour an otherwise tolerable, or even pleasant job. Office politics breeds back-stabbing, power-brokering, brown-nosing, favoritism and information silos within an organization. Surprisingly, reducing these behaviors can be fairly simple once you understand the cause, particularly if you’re in a senior-enough decision making role in the organization.

The Cause

Widespread office politics are bred by secrecy – usually organizational and management secrecy. The behaviors are closely related to and usually accompanied by gossip. The cure for both is eliminating secrets and broadly disseminating information throughout the organization. Information on operations, profits, human resource decisions, organizational goals, bad news, anticipated new markets, marketing strategy should all be available to every employee interested. You don’t need to give out corporate secrets – the recipe for the “secret sauce” can stay inviolate, but all executive decision-making must default to sharing information. That means that unless there is a good reason not to tell, you make the information generally available throughout all levels of the organization. A culture of secrecy makes organizations sick.

And It’s Just Good Business

Particularly in times of extreme change or market pressure, excellent information flow cushions organizations and makes them more resilient. Employee understanding brings trust, and even during stressful times, employee retention rates are higher than in a “political” organization.

Employees are also better able to contribute by making innovative suggestions, when they understand the “why” of corporate decisions. A process or technique that has become outdated is much likelier to be identified and improved when information flows freely.

This Is Hard On Bad Managers

In a culture that chooses to minimize office politics, rewards are earned, not granted in return for favors. Every promotion comes as a result of performance factors that are clearly understood by the organization. Performance-based systems allow what matters to the organization, rather than to individuals trying to build a power base, to take precedence.

Managers that promote primarily based on whether they like the candidate, or feel that they will be supported by that person, are part of the problem. Demand measurable, performance-based factors in justification of promotions and pay increases. Insist on fairness in management, and remove or demote managers who refuse to play by a teamwork paradigm.

And Good For Productivity

Make sure every manager can answer the question “How do you know when one of your staff is doing a good job?” The answer needs to be based in measurable performance. Once your managers learn to identify the substance of performance rather than the appearance of it, productivity will increase and the right values will be rewarded.

Improve Your Organization’s Performance

Here’s a checklist for reducing office politics and improving teamwork in your organization:

  • Publish most corporate decisions and the reasons they were made.
  • Encourage and answer “Why” questions.
  • Invite and consider good ideas.
  • Measure performance.
  • Publish performance data.
  • Promote and reward based on performance.
  • Eliminate secret deal-making.
  • Remove or demote managers who are not team players.

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 13th, 2009 at 8:00 pm and is filed under Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Comment

  1. akasse says:

    I was in a job at an otherwise good company but sour office politics really made the environnemt worse than it should have been. In the end I moved on to another company with a better company culture and politics.
    akasse´s last blog post ..Børne- og Ungdomspædagogernes Landsforbund BUPL A-kasse

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