That, 34 per cent of the respondents were not reluctant to be a part of office politics shows the acceptability of its existence in workplaces
A recent online poll on workplace trends conducted by TimeJobs.com reveals an interesting aspect of workplace politics and how employees take it. In this online poll, almost 18 per cent of the respondents said that they participate in office politics for fear of being victimized themselves. Though 55 per cent of the respondents said that office politics vitiates the work environment, at least 34 per cent of the respondents were not averse to office politics. Out of these, 16 per cent of the respondents said that indulging in office politics is fine as long as no one gets hurt. These findings underline the attitude of normal Indian workers towards office politics.
Can companies do away with office politics?
Some companies are taking steps like promoting mutual understanding among team members, making systems and processes more fair and transparent, and encouraging team activities to prevent gossips. The fact that good 34 per cent of the respondents were not reluctant to be a part of office politics shows the acceptability of its existence in workplaces. It cannot be denied that workplace politics comes as pack and parcel of having larger teams. In his article titled Office politics: Why human resource needs to be more politically intelligent, Peter Hamill, senior consultant, Roffey Park Institute reasons, “Human beings are driven to compete as much as we collaborate.” Workplace gossips are an integral part of fun conversations in workplaces, this doesn’t mean that HR or team leaders should avoid it altogether and decide to live with it. The worrying part of office politics is its extent. Remember, office politics is never a part of the system unless leaders allow it to become. More often than not, it is a people issue. And, by identifying the culprits leaders can nip it in the bud.
From gossips to politics
Not all gossips can be termed as lethal politicking. Water cooler gossips, tea breaks etc are some of the things that organization cannot (and shouldn't) stop. However, there is a thin line between acceptable gossips and vitiating discussions. Here are some of the behaviours that should be considered as signals of action:
1. While more and more inter and intra-departmental interactions are something that companies should welcome, those low-volume corner talks among a specific set of people should raise an alarm.
2. Employees indulged in politicking usually exhibit specific behaviours. Their grudge against a particular person can easily be noticed. From forming groups to alienate that person to questioning his ideas and credentials during meetings are some of the many signs such people show.
3. Workplace politics usually changes the team dynamics. Watch out for signs when people start forming groups to report something or condemn something. Changing behaviours of team members to each-other says a lot about where water cooler discussions are headed to.
What could be done?
Gossiping and politicking are behavioral issues. This doesn't mean that organisations, team leaders or human resource professionals can do nothing to curb it. Employees indulge in unacceptable behaviours if they think they can get away with it.
1. Have a clear policy about unacceptable behaviors in office. List office politics as one of the objectionable behaviours and make sure that it is communicated to people time to time.
2. In the TimesJobs survey at least 28 per cent of the respondents said that promoting mutual understanding among employees can help curb office politics. So, do not undermine the role of small get-together and interactions. Provide your employees the opportunities to interact with each other about things other than work. Off site meetings, get-togethers can be of help.
3. When it comes to creating a great organizational culture, nothing beats fair policies and transparent systems. In the survey, 28 per cent respondents said that companies can keep office politics at bay by implementing clear and fair policies. This helps employees trust their leaders, in which situation they will interact with them to get their problems sorted rather than cribbing with colleagues.
4. In an article Organisational Psychologist Dr Jan Stringer West concludes, “While office politics may be a workplace fact of life, containing or controlling them is possible with the right direction.” West emphasizes, “At the heart of office politics are employees trying to gain control of their careers.” By giving them fair opportunities not only a company gets to engage them but also give them a chance to grow and thus adding to its productivity.