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Office politics. No one likes them. You might enjoy watching House of Cards or Game of Thrones, with the political backbiting and ‘behind-closed-doors’ deals, but do you really want to play the political game every hour of every working day?
Leading a team in which there is a lack of trust, absence of cohesion, and deficit of accountability is sapping work, both mentally and physically. Office politics creates a dysfunctional team, as Patrick Lencioni described in his powerful book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
Office politics destroys employee engagement. Instead of working as part of a team, all pulling in the same direction, individuals jockey for personal gain. Results suffer. Morale falls. Good employees leave. Study after study and survey after survey have found that office politics pummel productivity and serves to disengage employees from their work, their colleagues, and their company. For example:
And when more than half of your employees believe that playing office politics rather than doing good work is the route to promotion (Bridge), you know that there is a serious problem in your organization. How much more productive could your team be, and how much more profitable could you be?
When searching for ways to increase employee engagement, eliminating office politics should be high on your list of priorities – if not top of it. And the top is where you should start. Without a cohesive leadership team, who are fully engaged in their work and achieving team goals rather than office politics, how can you expect your employees to do likewise?
Lencioni’s five dysfunctions perfectly describe the symptoms caused by office politics:
Given that your employees are led by example, it is imperative that you create a leadership team devoid of office politics. Here are five ways to increase employee engagement from the top down, and create an ace management team that leads from the front.
Playing office politics should not be seen as an attribute required to lead. Be an example of the open, honest culture that denies office politics as a worthy attribute.
If you suspect office politics are being played (for example, gossiping at the watercooler), tackle the parties involved directly. Leave them in no doubt that such actions are neither needed nor wanted. If you are not certain about how to address a difficult breakdown in communication, read our article “Carefronting vs. confronting”.
People play office politics for two main reasons: greed (the desire for power or reward), and fear (of losing job or position). Leaders with high emotional intelligence will have the communication tools to understand what it is that drives each individual to behave in ways that may otherwise be out of character. With this understanding, you will be better able to provide individualised solutions and coach them to a less political way of behaving, as mutual trust grows.
(Read our article “7 Leadership behaviours to inspire employee engagement” for more trust building tips.)
Don’t provide the fuel that enables backstabbing and gossipmongering to thrive. If your organizational culture promotes open and honest communication, there will be no room for games of ‘he said, she said’. Be an effective leader by enabling people to come to you directly with their issues, rather than rallying others to their cause.
Ensure that your team knows the collective goals, and their collective responsibility to achieving them. Communicate these goals regularly and ensure that group focus remains on them, and their individual inputs to the collective based upon each person’s strengths.
Then, recognise contributions made, and reward the efforts and results objectively. This includes providing direction to those underperforming, so that the potential of all can be achieved.
If you leave office politics unchecked, they can lead to many negative consequences for your employees, teams, and business. To eliminate office politics from your organization, you must create a management team that leads by example and is devoid of political behavior.
Is your management team engaged? Does it exhibit the qualities and character traits that will shape how your organization acts and performs? Employee engagement begins at the top. Contact Primeast today to discuss how our Management Development Series, including our Energy Leadership Program, can help your leaders gel into an ace management team.
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