How to Navigate Office Politics
This article is written by Predictable Success Consultant Carissa Figgins.
Office politics are a nasty component of employment that can surface no matter where we work. While there are many potential underlying causes, one thing is for certain. Humans are hard-wired to win, and sometimes that can lead to destructive behaviors among team members.
As a leader, it’s essential that you don’t turn a blind eye to such activities. Office politics undermine a team’s ability to work well together. These games cause real dissatisfaction, affecting the organization’s productivity, even potentially triggering people to leave. However, by taking appropriate action, it’s possible to counteract these detrimental effects.
Diagnose the Root of the Problem
It is critical to identify whether it’s one or two individuals who are instigating this stance or if there is a general attitude of unrest across the organization.
Consider what is happening with your team that may be causing this to bubble to the surface. When did this behavior become noticeable? Can you match it to a particular season of the Predictable Success life cycle?
For example, when a team/division/organization hits Whitewater and is forced to create systems and processes to address the growing issue of complexity, it is an extremely stressful time. Individuals may react strongly based upon their primary leadership style.
Operators will often resist or even resent the new policies and procedures that are being put in place and will do whatever they can to pull everyone back to the Fun stage. Processors will push back if they feel the new systems and processes they have created are not being adhered to or even ignored.
Visionaries may be outwardly supporting the new processes while not actually complying themselves, leading to a perception of inequality and even hypocrisy.
Negative office politics can also surface if an organization finds itself in Treadmill, which is an over-processed environment. When the primary focus becomes adhering to systems and processes rather than the results they were designed to facilitate, Visionaries will feel that their creativity is being stifled. Not only will they resent the Processor who is in their “sweet spot”, they will begin acting outside of the very systems and processes they helped to create.
Implement These Solutions
Connect with your team and take note of your cohort’s distinctive work styles, main concerns and communication preferences.
1. Have your team take the Synergist quiz and share their results.
This will give everyone a clearer understanding of each other’s strengths and ways of working through challenges. They may be surprised to learn that what they thought were personality clashes are merely differences in leadership styles. Having this shared vocabulary will go a long way toward enhancing team cohesion.
2. Reaffirm the Vision.
Ensure that the vision of what your team is working towards is communicated clearly and consistently, along with each person’s role in achieving it. Align team members around it so that everyone can channel their focus accordingly.
3. Spend time with those who are actually doing the work and amend tactics as needed.
If just one or team members are exacerbating the situation, make it a priority to coach them and bring them on board with the rest of the team. Lead them in understanding the importance of the Enterprise Commitment as well as the value of high quality team based decision-making.
4. Address the issue head on.
No one likes conflict, but ignoring the problem of office politics will only lead to more serious issues. Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing and, when addressed early and in a positive manner, it can lead to real growth within your organization.