What comes to mind when you think of office politics? You wouldn’t be the first to picture cloak and dagger tactics like backstabbing, schmoozing, and manipulation to climb the corporate ladder. And you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. We’ve all had negative experiences or heard others’ horror stories. Which is why the best solution is to steer clear of it altogether, right?
Wrong. Unfortunately, avoidance may not be the smartest career move.
Plus, despite the bad rap it gets, office politics isn’t always a bad thing. Engaging in it positively and ethically can help develop soft skills, create valuable relationships, and motivate individuals to do their best work. And if you’re a manager or team leader, you’ll likely come across marvellous opportunities to change things for the better. Let’s take a look at how to use subtle workplace dynamics for good in your organization.
5 Ways to Positively Influence Your Company Culture
Understand (and Leverage) what motivates people
As mentioned earlier, office politics is often a strong motivator. For example, workers who wish to advance their careers typically want powerful people to notice them in a good way. You can use this to everyone’s benefit by marrying your workers’ goals with the overall company’s objectives. Leadership development is an excellent way to motivate your employees, help them gain visibility and cultivate an empowered workforce that will benefit your organization in the long run.
Emphasize collaboration over competition
Unhealthy workplace politics often occurs because of conflicting interests. One party may feel like the only way to advance themselves is at the expense of another. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, promote collaboration over competition. Structure projects and other work opportunities to allow equal participation, use everyone’s strengths and talents, and create win-win scenarios for all involved.
Give credit where it’s due
Few things are more toxic than stealing praise for another person’s effort. Unfortunately, this happens all the time as a tactic to get ahead. It breeds resentment and hostility among coworkers, emotions that rot through professional relationships. Strong organizations rely upon solid departments and units, so don’t take this lightly. Instead, create an atmosphere of intentionally recognizing and showing appreciation for each person’s contributions.
Make sure gossip ends with you
Having people talk about you behind your back still stings just as badly as it did in middle school. Gossip doesn’t just hurt people’s feelings; it’s also demotivating and unproductive. As a leader, do your best to avoid participating in these types of discussions. Also, actively stand against this behaviour by taking the necessary actions to snuff it out.
Orchestrate team building activities
Encouraging positive interactions among staff can help keep manipulative workplace maneuvers at bay. Sometimes trust and camaraderie naturally form between colleagues as they spend time together. However, a proactive strategy will ensure it happens as frequently as possible (and hopefully discourage cliques from forming). Organize team-building events and programs that bring different people across the company together. If you’re struggling to think of engaging ideas, make sure to peruse our platform!
Quick Note: Managing Office Politics While Working Remotely
Friendly reminder that just because you’re out of the office doesn’t mean the politics isn’t happening! With remote forms of work currently the norm, it may be even trickier to spot nefarious behaviours. Keep an eye out for things like:
- Rumours landing in your email inbox and DMs
- Unexplained bottlenecks in workflow
- Passive-aggressive or dominating behaviour during video calls
Give people grace in this new virtual world, where body language and other social cues aren’t easily visible. Check-in with your staff individually to see how they’re doing from time to time. Make sure everyone has equal access to the information needed for their work. Distribute company code of conduct reminders every once in a while. Through these acts of mindfulness and empathy, you might diffuse workplace toxicity without even realizing it.
In Closing: Don’t Be Switzerland
Remember: where there are people, there’s politics. Intricate systems of power and unwritten rules are just facts of life in an organization. While it can be exhausting, engaging in office politics doesn’t have to erode corporate culture. You can participate in it without selling your soul. Don’t take a neutral stance; instead, use it to make changes for everyone’s benefit.