29th April 2019
It’s a term that gets thrown around quite often, but do you actually know what ‘workplace politics’ means? It’s okay if you aren’t sure of the exact definition – it covers a fair amount of ground.
Workplace politics refers to the activities, attitudes or behaviours that are used to get or keep power or advantage within a business or company.
Research shows that a third of workers in the UK dread going into work because their colleagues or management make the working environment unbearable. A staggering 36% of people have even admitted that they would consider handing in their notice of resignation, with 1 in 10 having already put those steps in motion.
Why Might Workplace Politics Occur?
Office politics tend to crop up when people within a business misuse their power to gain undue attention or popularity or for employees to win favour with their superiors and tarnish the reputation of their co-workers. This might look like:
- Staff members who want to gain credit without putting in the hard work to achieve it.
- People wanting to achieve something beyond their authority or control – perhaps in a short period of time.
- Arrogant superiors abusing their authority.
- Jealous colleagues who feel the need to ‘stir the pot’ as a way of drawing attention to themselves.
- Gossip between colleagues which leads to workplace politics.
- Promotions that are awarded to candidates based on their contacts rather than their suitability for the role.
These are just a handful of examples of the types of behaviour that you might come across throughout your working life. Needless to say, they aren’t the kind of situations that you would want to be tangled up in; which begs the question – how can you rise above the politics in your workplace?
Ways to Reduce Workplace Politics
As an employee, you want to feel as though you can enjoy your hard earned days off not fretting about the next time you have to clock in and as an employer, you want to know that your staff are happy.
Now, it’s near on impossible to eradicate workplace politics completely. There will always be a difference in opinion and, unless you’re one of the lucky few, there’s bound to be at least one person that you butt heads with at work. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any measures you can put in place to minimise the level of politics that occur in your workplace.
Promote Job Satisfaction
Employees being unhappy with their jobs can be a big influence of politics in the workplace, so be sure to check in with your staff and put yourself in a position that lets you know and understand how your staff are feeling and the things that they want. Having an understanding will put you in good stead to effectively manage their roles and responsibilities.
- Delegate assignments and tasks according to the interests, qualifications and specialisations of your team.
- Ensure that tasks given to employees don’t impose on anyone else or take away from the responsibilities of other staff members.
- People are most likely to indulge in politics when they find themselves with free time or don’t have anything innovative to do, so give them work that can be enjoyed (wherever possible) to encourage their loyalty and interest in your company.
Transparency must be maintained at all times to ensure that staff are aware of both their own targets and the goals and objectives of the company. Company objectives should be the same for everyone across the board.
It’s in that transparency and equal treatment that you will demonstrate to your staff that there is no reason for them to feel inferior to anyone else in the company.
Strengthening the bond between your employees on both a professional, team-based level and encouraging them to develop positive relationships will take you a long way in your efforts to reducing politics in your workplace.
There are plenty of team building activities that you can organise which won’t cost much (if anything) but will help to bring your team together, such as:
- Office parties.
- Celebrating each other’s successes.
- Arrange Secret Santas or Easter egg hunts etc.
- Take your team out for lunch or order pizza to the office.
- Organise a team building day away from the office, i.e. a picnic or paintballing (make sure that the activity is one that everyone is able to join in on, or it defeats to object).
Initiatives like these really help to nurture good working relationships with and between your staff and help to reduce misunderstandings or negative feelings amongst colleagues.
Chinese whispers spring to mind when I think about this next point.
Think about a time when you’ve misinterpreted a situation because the information was given to you second (or maybe even third or fourth) hand. Usually, it’s through no intention of the person delivering the message to you to get it wrong – perhaps they misunderstood themselves; but the problem is that without hearing something directly from the person or source, the chances are that the message is going to change somewhat before reaching your eyes or ears.
We all process and interpret things differently, so it’s best to practice effective communication and reduce the risk of office politics as a result of misunderstandings and upset.
Keep all correspondence in writing, where possible. This way, confusion will become more avoidable and you’ll have an audit trail available in case you ever need to back something up.
Problems arise when matters are discussed behind closed doors and are not communicated to employees. Of course, there will always be certain topics that require discretion; but the general rule of thumb should always be to keep your staff as much in the loop as possible – that’s the fastest way to gaining their trust and respect.
Where possible, employees should be able to participate in conversations on matters relevant to them and should be allowed to freely express their views and concerns to their management.
Nurture Company Culture
This last one’s simple – if your company culture is one that staff understand, believe in and see you nurturing and investing in, they are more likely to want to conform to it. Make your company a place that values its people and discourages bullying or any other form of negativity directed at other employees, and you will create a better environment for everyone.
Clarisse works as the Lead of our Customer Support Team to provide all of our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.