Tips for Handling Office Politics

Office politics. There’s an app for that. In the new iPhone app “Office Master: Backstab,” players work their way up the corporate ladder by backstabbing as many of their co-workers as they can, kind of a cubicle whack-a-mole. “To the people who have suffered and endured in the world of office politics, we dedicate this game to you,” wrote one of the creators. That’s a lot of people.

In my last post I talked about the high cost of office politics, which has been estimated to cost more than $300 billion a year in the U.S. in lost productivity. There are other costs as well, including the difficulty of recruiting and keeping people in a toxic office environment.

Players on the iPhone app Office Master: Backstab work their way up the corporate ladder by stabbing co-workers in the back.

I was chatting with a young woman once who had filled in as communications manager for an arts organization for a few months. She described the situation as a viper’s pit.

There was no one person running the company, weekly meetings were one long complaint session, and the box office computer was running on ancient software that barely functioned.

But it wasn’t updated because the box office manager was the only one who knew how to use it and thought it gave her job security. When this young woman was trained on it, the box office manager promptly changed the password and declined to share it.

When she was offered the job on a permanent basis, she politely turned it down. Wonder why? That was an office brought almost to a standstill by office politics.

Office politics is not going away. But here are a few of my tips to minimize its negative impact on productivity in your company.

1. The CEO sets the example. Treating everyone internally and externally with respect goes a long way towards decreasing office politics.

2. Have clear, well communicated company policies and follow them. Employees are happier when they understand what the office policies are and that everyone adheres to them.

3. Maintain an atmosphere of openness where people feel they can make their concerns known. When senior managers don’t feel they can bring topics up, problems in the company may stay hidden until a small problem escalates into a big one.

4. When you see that some employees are not working in the best interest of the company, speak to them directly. Explain that everyone needs to work as a team and work toward the same goal: the success of the company. If they are directing their efforts elsewhere, it may be time to move on.

You want people working hard for your company. Not virtually stabbing their co-workers in the back.

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