The American Management Association estimates that $100 billion dollars of productivity were lost in the US in 2019 because of office politics. This estimate is likely low due to work-at-home policies and significant political and cultural differences being front and center in the minds of many workers. The data is bearing this out, as worker satisfaction is at an all-time low. According to Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workforce survey, sixty percent of employees reported feeling detached from their work. In strict dollars and cents, the survey further shows that business units with unhappy workers are 23% less profitable than those with engaged workers.
If your company doesn’t have a proactive strategy for mitigating office politics, your workplace will become increasingly unproductive.
I was blessed to run a global tech firm that was growing rapidly and hiring a lot of new talent, which provided many opportunities for disrupting the positive company culture we had established. However, we were able to maintain a refreshingly peaceful work culture by setting up strategic safeguards against the manipulation and maneuvering that people associate with ‘office politics.’ I know it might seem like there is nothing you can do to avoid office politics, but there are steps you can take to reduce their negative effects in your immediate environment.
Here are the four strategies that I encouraged my managers and employees to implement in order to keep a positive and productive workplace:
First, lean into awkward conversations. Realize that conflict is inevitable and that it won’t get better all by itself. The only way to solve people's problems is by leaning into the conflict and having that awkward conversation to clear the air. So schedule yourself an awkward meeting…and deal with conflict instead of waiting for it to go away!
Second, don’t talk behind someone else’s back, no matter what level they are in the organization. In a healthy company, when someone has a problem, they should only talk to someone who is part of the problem or part of the solution. Talking to anyone else about the problem is just gossip. And gossip is the fast track to nasty, messy office politics.
Third, encourage your co-workers to address issues. I’ve had people come in with a complaint about a fellow employee plenty of times. I tell them to hold that thought while I go get the person so that the three of us can work it out in real time. You might not have the authority to pull this move, but encourage your co-workers toward open communication and positive conflict resolution, instead of complaining and gossiping.
Fourth, be as open as possible about how decisions are made. That way no one is confused, or assuming someone is trying to stab them in the back. The higher you are in your organization, the more opportunity you will have to practice this, but whatever level you are at, being open with the people around you will stop office politics from sabotaging your workplace.
Office politics is cancer that destroys productivity, saps the joy out of work, and costs your organization significant financial success. Do the work of killing this kind of behavior and you will be shocked at the change in your workplace. Start by going to RedBalloon.work!