How to Minimize Office PoliticsGossip at the water cooler, power plays by management, and bullying in the office.

While some leaders appreciate some office politics to create a sense of “survival of the fittest;” competition, others won’t accept it as part of the working environment because it negatively affects morale, turnover, and often, opportunities for star employees who might otherwise be very good, but don’t successfully “play the politics game.”

Skilled employees don't want to work where they can’t succeed on good performance and initiatives but must “play the game” to get ahead. So they look elsewhere.

Realistically, no work environment can be completely free of the politics. You have employees, who are human, with varying personalities, work ethics, and opinions.

How to Eliminate Office Politics chief executive officer, Jay Steinfeld says you can find a happy balance by creating an environment that encourages competition without the nastiness and jealousy involved in the office politics in his article for Inc.

  1. Lead by example. Honesty and transparency. They are big buzzwords these days, but it’s an important mantra. If you breed an environment of office politics it will flourish. Instead, if you have discussions with your employees, allowing them real input and follow-through, handing out credit where credit is due, they will quickly understand they are recognized and valued for their contribution. There’s no room for politics in this type of an environment.
  2. Communicate your vision. If you’ve done a good job of sharing where the organization is headed, your employees have a good sense of how they fit into the big picture. Steinfeld says “when everyone has an identical goal, it is less likely people will behave in their own best interests.” This is true because they are all aligned in the same direction. Teams are being rewarded for reaching goals, and everyone is recognized for their contribution.
  3. Allow healthy debate. Even the best marriages have debates and arguments. We’re not suggesting this should be eliminated. But there is a healthy way and an unhealthy way to allow a healthy debate. Debate good ideas, eliminate personal attacks; especially those based on gender, religion, race, and politics.
  4. Reject negative politics. Don’t allow behavior you don’t want to see. If there are problems with managers within your organization, for example, you want to know. Be approachable, so you have a clear picture of what is happening in the workplace. Make it very clear backstabbing, gossip, and power plays aren’t welcome in this environment.

By nature of leading a team of people, there will always be challenging interpersonal dynamics. Office politics won’t go away completely and forever. However, by leading by example, you show the type of working environment you want to foster; one which is competitive and open to healthy debate, but closed to negative attacks.

Do you have issues with office politics in your business? What do you do to keep it at bay?