Workplace Politics: Here’s How to Efficiently Avoid It

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Let’s be honest: no one really likes office politics. It is extremely exhausting and can land everyone involved in hot water. It’s why management often tries to nip it in the bud.

Unfortunately, workplaces are inherently political organizations, according to the Harvard Business Review. It makes sense if you take into account how employees spend hours every day together trying to achieve the same goals. This means that competition is an inevitable part of it all. Many individuals engage in politics in hopes of selling their ideas, achieving major career goals, and increasing influence in the company.

However, professionals don’t need to compromise their morals as well as the organization’s values to promote themselves. There are various other ways to have influence and meet your career goals that don’t negatively affect your personal and professional life.

In this blog post, we are listing some tips from Steve Gilliland, a top corporate motivational speaker, that can help prevent workplace politics. Keep reading to find out more.

Defining Workplace Politics and How It Affects Offices

Office politics exists across virtually every organization. However, few people actually know what it is and how it impacts people. In simple words, office politics is an activity performed by professionals in a corporate setting. It’s executed by individuals to advance their agenda, gain career-related benefits, or improve their status and influence in an organization.

This makes workplace politics an inherent part of corporate settings’ complex social structure. Unfortunately, whether it’s fair or not, it can determine who has power and influence often at the expense of others.

Though competition can sometimes benefit the company as it helps hold the workforce together, it can also cause one group to have power over others. This often leads to the others developing feelings of resentment and contempt. In many cases, it can even result in an increasing turnover rate that derails the company’s employee retention policies.

Even when it doesn’t cause this level of damage, unnecessary office politics distract professionals from concentrating on work. This is a surefire way to impact productivity.

As a result, we understand that effectively navigating office politics can be essential when it comes to creating a safe space.

Common Reasons Behind Cases of Office Politics

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but one of the biggest reasons behind office politics is that it can help individuals succeed. This is why most experts recommend that everyone should have an idea of what it’s about—even those individuals who wish to prevent workplace politics. As a matter of fact, understanding office politics has now been deemed a skill in the modern workplace.

Employees aspiring to come into the limelight for their ideas often resort to office politics. This rings true even when they aren’t hesitant to put in the hard work. That’s because it increases their chances of meeting their career targets.

In most cases, employees engage in office politics when they aspire to achieve something that is above their authority. Though people can gain their motives when they wait for the right time, it’s easy to feel impatient. It’s especially true in cases when professionals feel they ‘deserve’ the promotion.

Workplace politics also occurs when there aren’t many resources or benefits in a company. That’s because competition is likely to occur in an organization when there aren’t enough resources. For example, if a company has limited positions, it increases the chances of many individuals trying for the few available spots. This can cause office politics as employees would try to gain a competitive edge for the smaller chances at promotions. This works the same when a company has limited opportunities for big projects.

Unfortunately, most organizations have a pyramid-shaped hierarchy. As a result, we know that there are fewer opportunities for professionals when they rise up the ranks. Similarly, we know that not everyone is going to get promotions. After all, there are very few executive positions as compared to starting positions. It’s why office politics takes place in nearly every company out there.

Another reason behind office politics is inefficient supervision or even lack of it. This typically occurs when the management doesn’t know how to ensure employee satisfaction. When professionals don’t feel satisfied with their work, they resort to other measures to gain benefits.

How to Assess if a Corporate Environment is Politicized

It’s highly important that companies identify and assess if their environment is politicized. That’s because it helps them employ effective measures to prevent workplace politics. Many management teams find it difficult to identify them, which often results in the company experiencing problems.

Some of the telltale signs that employees of a company are engaging in politics are listed here.

  1. Lack of coherent vision

When employees’ personal rewards fail to align with company goals, it can lead to a toxic political environment. That’s because vision and politics are inherently connected to each other. When individuals focus on their goals and compete with each other, it distracts them from company targets and goals. As a result, the corporate vision starts to dilute and is taken over.

  1. There is a lot of gossip

Another obvious sign of office politics is that employees are involved in conversing about each other. This is typically evident in situations where hearsay comments circulate freely.

  1. Manipulation Is a Common Tactic

An organization is likely to have politics when there is manipulation and little knowledge and visibility of decision-making. This is true even when manipulation is used to address office politics only. After all, this creates a culture of mistrust that no one would like to be involved with.

Below we have listed several effective ways that can help individuals as well as management navigate and prevent office politics.

a successful management and team meeting

Understand the Organization’s Social Networks from the Inside Out

In order for both management and individuals to prevent office politics, it can be beneficial to know the ins and outs of the functions of the organization. This means that understanding the structure of an organization can play a vital role. This includes knowing which employees report to whom and which ones seem to have more influence.

Typically, each company has two chief subdivisions when it comes to social networks—these are known as formal and informal networks. The former refers to a social structure that considers employees based on their ranks. For example, the titles of CEO or manager.

On the other hand, informal networks in offices signify social structures based on influence stemming from something else other than their title.

Informal networks are highly relevant but subtle; they also don’t have any rigid contracts. This situation allows individuals to move however they want in an organization and even skip authorities. In some cases, the influence of such employees can become harder to manage. This is also true in some cases when management actively tries to control these networks.

In many ways, offices can be like high schools because there are some cliques and outgroups nearly everywhere. It can be beneficial for employees to notice which connections are based on respect as compared to those formed on gossip. That’s because it can help you identify how influence flows between the parties involved.

It’s important to note that all formal networks have an informal one; however, not all informal networks have a formal one. Understanding how they operate can be beneficial in navigating them efficiently.

Exercise Control

Management can ensure the prevention of office politics by maintaining effective control of the employees without rigidity. When individuals have defined structures that are based on empathy, they are less likely to resort to workplace politics.

Promote Positive Work Relationships

When management promotes positive connections to foster an environment free of toxic behavior, it can highly benefit the company. That’s because when employees feel a genuine connection with other workers as well as the organization’s values, they are less likely to engage in office politics.

One of the best ways most companies’ management does this is through activities and programs that help employees know everyone involved. For example, hosting dinners for all workers to create space for friendly conversations that doesn’t involve work.

After all, when individuals are often away from an environment that coerces them to be competitive, they are less likely to resent others. It can be advantageous to not just include one team or a singular department but to have the whole company involved. Moreover, it can be beneficial in fostering a family-like spirit in the organization, which can significantly increase productivity as well as employee retention rates.

On the other hand, employees can also take advantage of this strategy by having friendly conversations with their teams. Many expert professionals prefer to also go beyond their immediate team and across the formal hierarchy. This can include all coworkers and managers. That’s because it helps them form meaningful connections with everyone they come across.

Loyalty and friendship are known for helping create a strong support network that makes their environment a lot more favorable.

Being overly friendly is known to result in some problems. The reason behind this is that sharing a lot of someone’s personal information can lead them to expose vulnerabilities others can take advantage of. Similarly, while being friendly with everyone has benefits, aligning with only one group can be mistaken for loyalty. Successful professionals prefer to only show alignment with the company’s goals and benefits instead of anything else.

Neutralize Negative Politics

Managers and workers can both significantly impact and prevent office politics by neutralizing them. In simple terms, this means not fueling the fire but snuffiung it out as soon as you can. This can be something as simple as not passing rumors along, especially when their credibility is dodgy at best. Avoiding gossip of all sorts can be great when it comes to creating a positive image of yourself among your superiors.

Successful professionals are known to remain professional at all times without taking sides. Even when there is a conflict between two parties, it’s best to create a solution that benefits anyone. However, choosing to not be involved is also a great decision because being involved risks showing alignment with one group.

When it comes to managers, an ideal way to deal with gossip is by being a standard role model. If there are cases of gossip involved, act early to quell the situation to avoid more damage. Addressing the perpetrators one on one can be a great solution. However, most professionals prefer to ensure confidentiality, anonymity, and empathy to prevent any resentment. When people realize what they have done wrong as well as the dire consequences of their actions, they are less likely to continue that behavior.

A company can highly benefit from a toxic-free working environment that focuses on company goals. However, it can be difficult to align employees to corporate goals. If that’s something you need help with, hiring Steve Gilliland can be beneficial.

Steve Gilliland is a brilliant, renowned business motivational speaker who offers keynote presentations to companies. His wit coupled with his inspiring and heartwarming stories pack a punch to induce the motivation employees need. It’s why the Hall of Fame motivational speaker is one of the most in-demand corporate motivational speakers. As a matter of fact, he has given speeches in over 15 countries and has addressed dozens of industries.

Steve Gilliland’s motivational speeches are known to help managers get employees on the right track.

You can also find his work online through his Motivation Bites, blogs, and books.

Book Steve for your next conference, seminar, or event by clicking on the link.