PoliticsEveryone can agree: National politics is a mess.

Recognizing this, many businesses are moving forward with growth and, as best they can, sidestepping gridlock in Washington, D.C.

But are internal politics sabotaging your efforts to grow the business?

Les McKeown, author of Predictable Success, sees “many of those ‘a plague-on-both-your-houses’ entrepreneurs allowing politics to strangle” their organizations.

In an article for Inc., McKeown outlines a checklist of the most common symptoms of this dangerous disorder:

Symptoms of Internal Politics: A Lack of Vision

To McKeown, the clash between politics and a company’s vision is “essentially a zero-sum game.” When office politics creeps into the company, vision begins to weaken and “by the time politicking has become a mainstream leadership ‘tool,’ any sense of an overarching vision is largely lost.”

Too Many One-on-One Meetings

Politics thrives in whispers and supposedly confidential chats. “When senior management is seen in cliques more often than they’re seen together,” it’s a sure sign dysfunction has begun to creep in.

Speaking More About Other People Instead of Speaking to Them

In the political realm, people know (or think they know) a great deal about others, even if, as McKeown notes, “very little of that information comes from the other player directly.” Rather than engage in transparent communications, “one-on-ones in the political organization are mostly spent talking about other people not in the room, amassing ‘usable intel.’”

People’s Motivations are Questioned

When meetings within political organizations aren’t up-front and people fail to share their honest opinions, “the respective players end up spending an inordinate amount of time and energy speculating on other people’s motivations.”

People are Manipulated

In a healthy organization, issues are addressed directly. In an organization riddled with politics, “every issue becomes all about people.” As McKeown notes, managing different alliances as they rise and fall “sucks everyone else who works with you into the selfsame political spider’s web.”

Departments are Insular and Silo’ed

In a political organization, there’s a group that’s “in,” and then there’s everyone else. People on the outside rarely hear from those on the inside, “except to be given granular-level tasks to perform.”

McKeown offers these tips for being effective within a politically-run organization.

Try to avoid accepting “Can you come in here for a moment?” invitations, “even if it’s gratifying to feel like you’re 'on the inside.'”

Decline to speak about others when they’re not there.

Conduct open meetings “with transparent agendas and a risk-free environment,” where everyone is encouraged to speak freely.

Work alongside people who are actively involved in the growth of the business, “not just those who have political clout.”

The messes in Washington should not serve as a model for how to run your business. The stakes are too high and the consequences too costly to engage in such short-sighted behavior.