Office politics are a fact of life with which most employees are unfortunately intimately familiar. The employee who was just promoted might not do the best job, put in the most hours, or have the most developed skills, but they certainly knew how to play the game.
While a great deal of workers feel office politics hurt productivity, a 2012 survey by Robert Half International shows 56% of workers feel politicking is necessary to get ahead in their career. Yet, these interoffice power struggles can hurt your company in a myriad of ways.
Office politics are toxic for your company culture, and unhappy employees are famously unproductive. A recent study by Gallup found employees’ perceptions of their work environments impact their well-being and productivity. This study is even called "Causal Impact of Employee Work Perceptions on the Bottom Line of Organizations," suggesting how your team views your organization can affect how your company actually performs.
While most companies know happier workers are more productive, engaged, and even creative, few companies have done anything to curtail office politics. So, it’s no wonder we are in the midst of an employee engagement crisis. A Gallup poll from last year found a whopping 70% of workers are disengaged on the job. This lack of enthusiasm and passion hurts the economy, since it translates to between $450 and $500 billion in lost profits. Office politics aren’t just bringing your company culture down—these same politics are also losing your company money.
It’s not too late for your company to turn itself around and get rid of the injurious office politics hurting your workforce. By keeping your best people aligned with important organizational goals and keeping tabs on workflow, you can end office politics and get people back to work.
Here are four ways to save your company culture before it becomes more cutthroat than a political campaign:
According to a poll conducted by workforce performance trainer Dale Carnegie in 2013, fewer than 6% of companies communicate goals on a daily basis. To reduce office politics, communication has to be continuous and flow both up and down the organizational chart.
It’s not enough for management to hand down decrees from on high; employees must also feel they can contribute to the organization. By allowing your best people to contribute and listening to their problems, you can put a stop to office politics before they start.
Perhaps the reason a political climate has taken hold in your organization is because employees are working in a fog. In fact, software development company People Driven Performance recently found that 71% of employees feel their managers don’t spend enough time communicating and clarifying goals. Yet focusing on goals and keeping organizational objectives in sight might actually be the best way to cut down on office politics.
A goal focus helps your team understand their role in the organization and how their individual work contributes to large-scale company objectives. Being aware of how and why their work matters can lead to greater engagement and higher morale, cutting out the need for endless politicking for position.
Allowing employees to track their own progress toward goals is an excellent way to give your team autonomy while still understanding their contributions. By giving employees ownership of their work and allowing executives to see what everyone is working on, office politics become obsolete.
According to an employee engagement survey conducted by consultancy firm CustomInsight last year, in the top 10% of highly engaged employees, autonomy was the second highest driver of their engagement. Your team wants to be accountable for their contributions. By tracking work in real time, you can give valuable feedback and stop small problems from snowballing into huge issues.
Once you can see what everyone is working on and can track their progress, you can be sure you’re rewarding the people working hard instead of just playing the game. Understanding the contributions of your team can help you give better feedback, allowing your best people play to their strengths. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council shows that strengths-based feedback has been shown to improve productivity by 36%.
With better transparency into the actual workflow of your team, you can reward the right people and give better guidance to those falling behind. This will teach your team that hard work pays and politics should be left to Washington.
When it comes to your company and the productivity of your team, it’s time to leave the politicking for the campaign trail. By focusing on goals and tracking in real time, you can reward the right people, cut down on toxic office politics, and save your bottom line.
What do you think? How do you cut down on office politics? Share in the comments!
—Andre Lavoie is the CEO of ClearCompany, the first talent alignment platform that bridges the gap between talent management and business strategy by contextualizing employees’ work around a company’s vision and goals. You can connect with him and the ClearCompany team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.