?? Office Politics Kills Functional Workplace Culture ??


Wherever people congregate for any length of time there will be interactions, behaviours, feelings and opinions that create differences and agreements between individuals and groups.

In the workplace, these differences and agreements are also known as office politics and office politics determine the quality of the company’s culture.

Company culture is inevitable. In fact, this is one part of business that is a certainty. Every company will have a workplace culture. The choice here is in the quality of the culture, from highly dysfunctional to highly functional, that is required to build cohesiveness, productivity and reputation to consistently deliver on the outcomes of the company that in turn deliver an exceptional experience for clients.

Now if this choice is ignored, and the workplace culture is dysfunctional, then most people know the repercussions…divisive behaviours of ingroups and outgroups; gossip and back stabbing of people and their ideas; hogging of information; lack of trust between frontline employees and management; reliance on union protection activity; people working to the rule of the position description; managers undermining the efforts of others; and undermining management decisions.

So how do companies reduce the risk of a dysfunctional culture and create a highly functional culture that leads to a productive, innovative and healthy workplace without the downside of office politics?

Here are five considerations:

  1. Ego drivers are out:

These are the people who are self-serving and want to build their own power circles for their own gain. Identify these people at the recruitment stage but if they manage to get through, as soon as there is a hint of the self-serving attitudes or behaviours, then address them immediately.

  1. Others’ builders are in:

These are the people who advocate for the success of others they work with as well as the potential of the company. They we be ‘on board’ with the direction of the company while also willing to step up and provide their opinion about opportunities and risks the company may face. People who are others builders are needed at every level of the company.

  1. Build trust with transparency:

You’ve probable hear the saying that ‘Knowledge is power’ but in dysfunctional workplace cultures knowledge is used as leverage for self-gain and self-promotion which leads to high levels of distrust. Transparency rips the band-aid off ‘knowledge hogging’ and shares the power among other people in the workplace. To create the transparency, information is shared though open communication channels that provide opportunity for opinions and ideas to be heard without retribution. Transparency is the gateway to building trust between people.

  1. Keep the communication channels open

Often the breakdown of a functional culture begins when people are fearful of sharing information or a problem whether it is with a team member or a manager. This is when leaders can step up and make it a must to escalate problems and provide constructive feedback to encourage direct conversations before problems become significant. It also encourages cross-team collaboration and engagement as well as building continuous improvement.

  1. Expect accountability. 

Everyone within the workplace needs to be held accountable for their part in the culture. This means they are accountable for their contribution to the standards of communication and the quality of skills to do their part within the whole of the company. If one person is not living up to this expectation and it is left to fester, the risk of developing a dysfunctional culture is high. Accountability is more than just personal accountability, it includes being prepared to have what can be uncomfortable, difficult conversations so team members are supporting the accountability of others.

When all is said and done, office politics still seem to filter into the workplace, many people struggle with conflict and there will be clashes of personality.

But if a company’s leaders are prepared to show the way with open communication and build he potential in others then the way forward includes constructive feedback with accountability.

A useful place to start is offering culture development sessions to leadership teams so they can build on the skills needed to have the uncomfortable and difficult conversations without alienating the other person. This helps reduce resentment that can result from self-serving behaviours or poorly delivered feedback which can lead to unhealthy politics.

Yet a workplace is more than just its leaders. Culture development training is most beneficial when it is provided to everyone in the workplace.

After all, leaders can direct the culture like the captain guides a ship across the seas but it relies on the whole crew working together to take the ship where it needs to go.

Diane Gray

Culture, Systems, People

1 COMMENT to "?? Office Politics Kills Functional Workplace Culture ??"

  1. Reply Nicholas Brigden June 28, 2017 at 12:02 am

    That’s a great idea. Thanks for this article. I agree that “In the workplace, these differences and agreements are also known as office politics and office politics determine the quality of the company’s culture.” A very good article, thanks for sharing.

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